Match Point: New UVA Bicentennial Funds Magnify Support for Darden Students, Professors

By Dave Hendrick

A new giving initiative from the University of Virginia is helping magnify the impact of Darden School of Business donor dollars.

The UVA Board of Visitors recently approved two funds — the Bicentennial Scholars Fund and the Bicentennial Professors Fund — that will match donors’ gifts and help UVA attract the next generation of top scholars and faculty. The funds are available to all schools across UVA on a first-come, first-served basis, and they were created through the Strategic Investment Fund, which was established in part to support exceptional opportunities to enhance affordability and the academic experience at UVA.

“This is an extraordinary opportunity to double your impact at Darden,” said Kara Ramirez Mullins, executive director of the School’s Office of Advancement. “While the funds that UVA has created are significant, they will go to those who act first.”

Bicentennial Scholars Fund

Scholarship funding is critical to attract top students to the Darden MBA program, and financial awards often play a key role when students decide which school’s offer to accept.

Darden has made impressive strides on the scholarship front in recent years — the $13.7 million in new commitments in fiscal year 2017 is a 700 percent increase from fiscal year 2015. The School’s progress has helped close the scholarship funding gap with peer schools, but those schools continue to aggressively grow their scholarship offerings to attract and retain the best students.

The Bicentennial Scholars Fund seeks to play a crucial role in filling funding gaps and will help achieve the School’s goal to become one of the most affordable and accessible public graduate business school in the world.

In announcing the fund’s formation, UVA President Teresa Sullivan said it signaled the University’s intent to “make an excellent UVA education accessible and affordable for talented students from all backgrounds, regardless of their families’ financial situations.”

According to the resolution establishing the endowment, the board of visitors allotted $100 million toward the fund. Coupled with philanthropic giving, the fund could reach as much as $300 million.

Under the terms of the fund’s establishment, gifts to UVA or the Darden School of at least $100,000 and up to $1 million will be matched with 50 cents of endowment money for every dollar of philanthropy, while commitments of $1 million or more will be eligible for a $1 match for every $1 committed. Donors giving at least $100,000 are also given the opportunity to create a named endowment that will be awarded and recognized in perpetuity.

UPDATE: After the initial Bicentennial Scholars Fund investment was fully matched, resulting in $212 million for endowments supporting more than 140 scholarships, the board of visitors on 4 August 2018 approved an additional $100 million investment in the scholars fund. This second round of investment will allow contributions of $100,000 or more for new need- or merit-based graduate scholarship endowments to be matched $1 for each $2 in gift funding by the Bicentennial Scholars Fund.  

Lem Lewis (MBA ’72) has a strong history of reaching back to Darden in support of scholarship funding. When he learned that his efforts could have “twice the impact,” he took advantage of the opportunity.

“That was very much an incentive to move my giving forward,” Lewis said of the Bicentennial Scholars Fund. “This is a wonderful vehicle to have even more impact.”

Lewis, who retired as executive vice president and CFO of Landmark Communications and remains deeply engaged in the business world through corporate boards and community work, recalls the financial assistance that enabled him to attend Darden. He said giving to support future students reminds him of the African proverb: “Tomorrow belongs to the people who prepare for it today.”

“Darden helped me to prepare for my tomorrow,” Lewis said. “By giving back, I am helping to prepare others for their tomorrows.”

Bicentennial Professors Fund

If the Bicentennial Scholars Fund aims to assist top students in their paths to UVA, the Bicentennial Professors Fund seeks to ensure the world’s best professors are there once they arrive on Grounds. In late December 2017, the UVA Board of Visitors approved the $75 million, multi-year plan, which aims to attract and retain top faculty through the formation of more than 70 endowed professorships.

While Darden’s professors are often lauded as the best in the graduate business school industry — and are a key factor in top student satisfaction rankings — the School is facing a wave of retirements.

Darden has added a top-flight group of new professors in recent years, who would be the envy of any business school, but the task of recruiting and retaining elite and engaging scholars with a commitment to teaching will remain a constant in coming years. Darden is currently conducting more than a dozen searches for full-time faculty as it anticipates coming retirements and seeks to expand from 70 to 80 full-time positions.

The Bicentennial Professors Fund will assist in attracting new teachers through new endowments that help fund salaries for emerging, mid-career and veteran scholars. It will also be used to support the recruitment of graduate students and build new laboratory space.

The fund is structured in a manner similar to the Bicentennial Scholars Fund, with three tiers of match levels. Donors who fund an “Emerging Scholar” professorship will see their gift of $1 million or more matched at half of every dollar. The “Scholar” level professorship of gifts of $2 million will be matched with $1 million in matching funds, and the “Distinguished Scholar” level will see $3 million gifts matched at $2 million.

For more information about the Bicentennial Scholars Fund and Bicentennial Professors Fund, contact Kara Ramirez Mullins at or +1-434-243-0834.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


Press Contact

David Hendrick
Associate Director, Editorial & Media Relations
Darden School of Business
University of Virginia