UVA Darden Receives Largest Gift in School History From David (MBA ’78) and Kathleen LaCross
The LaCross investment in Darden puts them among the top five donors to the UVA Honor the Future campaign and will enhance faculty excellence, student experience and the Goodwin Family Grounds in Charlottesville
On 26 October, the University of Virginia Darden School of Business received news of a transformational gift from David M. LaCross (MBA ’78) and his wife, Kathleen O. LaCross. This updates a prior gift of $44 million the LaCross family made to Darden in October 2022 — which totaled $50 million thanks to matching funds from UVA. With this update, the LaCross gift to the Darden School is well over $100 million — the highest in the Darden School’s 68-year history and in the current Powered by Purpose campaign. The gift is among the Top 10 to any business school and puts the LaCross family among the top five donors to the University of Virginia Honor the Future campaign.
The announcement was made Thursday evening at a reception overlooking the botanical gardens adjacent to The Forum Hotel Kimpton on UVA Darden Grounds in Charlottesville, just after the gardens were officially named the LaCross Botanical Gardens.
Scott Beardsley, dean of the Darden School of Business, shared the news. “Today, Dave and Kathy LaCross are making history at the Darden School. They are positioning Darden and its faculty at the forefront and enriching the Charlottesville on-Grounds experience for faculty and students, creating a dynamic and vibrant future for Darden.”
University of Virginia President Jim Ryan said, “Dave and Kathy LaCross have once again demonstrated extraordinary generosity and vision with their investments and confidence in Darden and in UVA. They have my deepest admiration and gratitude.”
Watch the Full Announcement
Pioneering Artificial Intelligence
This month marks the start of Milestone II of the Darden School’s Powered by Purpose campaign, “Faculty Forward.” The second milestone builds on the first, which achieved its $400 million goal two years before the 2025 conclusion of the campaign.
The new bequest to Darden sets the stage by fulfilling one of Milestone II’s top five priorities in support of faculty: powering a transformative investment to position Darden — and UVA as a whole — as a trailblazer in research, teaching and deployment of artificial intelligence (AI) and other innovative tech applications in the business landscape.
The LaCross gift will fund research and instruction in artificial intelligence, its ethical implications for management, and the challenges and opportunities AI presents for business and society and human well-being. Darden’s Artificial Intelligence Initiative was launched by the LaCross family’s 2022 initial $6.5 million bequest and has powered early faculty work in this domain. Darden is a world leader in business ethics through the School’s Institute for Business in Society and Olsson Center for Applied Ethics, and the new work on AI will involve both. Darden and the UVA School of Data Science also jointly operate a Collaboratory for Applied Data Science in Business that will also be connected to advance work at the intersection of business and technology. The LaCross gift will build on this existing momentum and dramatically enhance the Darden Centers of Excellence ecosystem in advancing cutting-edge research, investing in new courses and modes of learning, and engaging with practice.
“Darden was a truly transformational place for me, and Kathy and I knew from graduation that we wanted to pay Darden back meaningfully,” said David LaCross.
“I am very interested in AI and have been since Fair, Isaac & Co. (FICO) acquired my company Risk Management Technologies in 1997, when I joined the FICO management committee. At that time, we studied extensively if neural networks could help improve Fair Isaacs’s credit score propositions and credit card fraud detection software. While we did not believe AI was ready at that point, I felt it was only a matter of time before AI technologies would be ready for prime time. That time is now. Students need to be exposed to AI in meaningful ways, and there is no business school better positioned to teach managers how to work with AI in ethical and responsible ways than Darden.”
The LaCross bequest will contribute to Darden’s involvement in the “Digital Technology and Society” focus area of the University of Virginia’s Grand Challenges Research Investments.
“The vision of Faculty Forward is to ensure that Darden continues to attract and retain the world-class educators, researchers and thought leaders who deliver Darden’s transformational learning experience,” said Darden School Foundation Chair Frank Sands (MBA ’94). “I can think of no better way to kick off the second milestone of our campaign than with this tremendous and inspiring gift.”
New Residential College at Darden Adjacent to LaCross Botanical Gardens
As part of the LaCross family’s initial gift to Darden, they named the abundant botanical gardens behind the façade of The Forum Hotel. The gardens serve UVA as an educational space and feature an outdoor classroom, pond, bridge and more than 7,000 trees and shrubs – including many cultivars found at Monticello. The botanical gardens also honor the vision of Thomas Jefferson, who was working on a different botanical garden design of about the same size at UVA near Alderman Library when he died.
Before the surprise announcement about the updated and transformational gift, the LaCross family, Darden alumni and friends formally gathered to dedicate the LaCross Botanical Gardens.
The family also provided the lead gift and seed funding for a new residential college at Darden. These funds will catalyze the construction of on-Grounds, high-quality residential housing at Darden to support the School’s master plan vision approved by the Board of Visitors. Approvals to begin the project will be sought in early 2024.
“The LaCross Botanical Gardens, in their full fall splendor this evening, prioritize connection and community and the importance of nature for our well-being,” said Beardsley. “I can think of no better moment to name these gardens for David and Kathy LaCross and their family as they breathe new life into the Darden Grounds through their inspiring generosity.”
See Photos From the Dedication Ceremony
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.
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