Online MBA Alum Gives $4M - For New B-School Building

Posted by: Louis Lavelle on May 4, 2010

So are you getting the irony here? Don Tapia, who got his bachelor’s and MBA degrees online at Saint Leo University in St. Leo, Fla., had $4 million burning a hole in his pocket and wanted to give a gift to his alma mater.

Instead of forking over the cash for the Center for Online Learning, where he earned his degrees, he gave it to Saint Leo’s School of Business—where it’s being earmarked for a new building. With his name on it.

As odd as that sounds—an online alumnus funding a new building—it actually makes some sense. Tapia, who grew up in a rough section of Detroit and went on to build a successful wholesale business in Arizona with nothing more than a high school diploma, got his degrees online, it’s true. But he always had a soft spot for the Saint Leo campus, where he attended commencement. The school, founded by Benedictine monks in 1889, is located on 185 acres north of Tampa with a big lake and Spanish architecture.

The new building that his money will help build will add 50,000 square feet to the university’s main campus including nine classrooms, a lecture hall, computer labs, and a broadcast technology suite. It will be open for the fall 2011 semester.

Tapia’s gift is the largest ever in the school’s history, and the school’s media spokesperson Scott Willyerd, says it may very well be the only gift from an online alumnus anywhere that involved naming rights to an actual building. It’s certainly the first one I’ve ever heard of. But as online alumni go on to climb the corporate ladder, build companies of their own, and get ridiculously rich, I suspect it probably won’t be the last.

Reader Comments

M Webley George

May 5, 2010 7:13 PM

Good for him. This is testimony that online students are not necessarily less promising than ground-campus students. The Donald Tapia School of Business. It has a nice ring to it.

vease1999

May 6, 2010 10:46 AM

I think that's really great that an alumnus who attended school online is giving back to his alma mater, even if it is for their ground based campus. I think it speaks volumes to the quality of their programs. He probably wouldn't have given that money to them if he felt he'd been cheated. As an alumnus of a school where I attended online (however, there is a ground based campus), I know I received a great education and would someday like to give back monetarily in a big way.

makoona

May 11, 2010 7:16 AM

extremely innovative and sizzling.

CWT

May 13, 2010 7:49 PM

Why is the tone of this article so snarky? The guy did a good thing for this institution. More power to him.

BW's Louis Lavelle

May 17, 2010 1:17 PM

No snarkiness intended. Just surprise that someone who benefited from an online program would give money for a new building--with the emphasis on BUILDING. Heck, I'm happy for the school, and for Mr. Tapia. And while "sizzling" may be a bit over the top, I generally agree with the earlier commenters: online programs may not be for everybody but they have a lot to offer.

Louis Lavelle
Associate Editor
Bloomberg Businessweek

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