Getting down to business: $10 million gift will benefit undergrads
Business school alumnus Thomas C. Jones has given $10 million to the Stephen M. Ross School of Business to make it possible for undergraduates to experience many of the programs usually provided only to master of business administration (MBA) students.
Jones, retired president of CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services, was the Ross School's first executive-in-residence and director of its bachelor of business administration (BBA) degree program in 2003-04. He says the gift will help make a highly rated undergraduate business program even better.
"The challenge is to take undergraduate business education at Michigan to a new level," says Jones, who received a BBA degree from U-M in 1968 and an MBA in 1971. "Success ultimately will be the impact the BBA program has on the lives and professional development of students.
"It is my hope and intent that the resources provided by this endowment will enable the Ross School to offer to future generations of undergraduate business students an exceptional educational experience unattainable without this support."
The gift will establish the Thomas C. Jones Center for BBA Education, which will offer more opportunities for students to apply classroom theory to real business situations, incorporate liberal arts into the business curriculum, and develop leadership skills.
It also will provide necessary resources to develop a series of "capstone" action-based learning courses that integrate interdisciplinary skills needed to solve complex business problems. For example, the school will be able to offer more undergraduate courses like "Strategic Management of Knowledge in Professional Services Firms," in which students participate in a business case competition before an actual company's executives, and "The Corporation in Society," in which students visit companies and other organizations in foreign countries to study business issues.
"We'll have even more integration of action-based learning activities both inside and outside the classroom," Jones says. "Students won't just live in a world of finance or management. They'll have a complete educational experience that integrates all business disciplines to meet the real world challenges."
Robert J. Dolan, dean of the Ross School of Business, says that Jones' generosity will have an extraordinary and lasting impact on the undergraduate business student experience.
"Tom Jones has long been a great supporter of the business school, as a BBA and MBA student, as a mentor for our undergraduates and as one of our top benefactors," Dolan says. "Because of his remarkable foresight, Ross School undergraduates not only will continue to receive an outstanding education here at Michigan, but will have learning opportunities that other business programs cannot match. Tom's generosity will have an indelible influence on Ross School students for years to come."
President Mary Sue Coleman says Jones' gift will advance the University's $2.5-billion The Michigan Difference campaign and will reverberate beyond the Ross School. "Mr. Jones' generous gift raises the bar for business education at the undergraduate level, here and elsewhere. And it also has far-reaching effects for the rest of the University," she says. "While Michigan is a premier public research institution and world renowned for its graduate studies, providing quality educational opportunities for our undergraduate students forms the very core of our mission as a public university."
Jones says his experience as a Michigan undergraduate changed his life and gave him the skills, tools, polish and confidence to be a successful business leader.
"I wouldn't be the person I am today without the guidance and support I received from the Michigan faculty and staff," he says. "And because of all they've given me, I wanted to give something back."
Jones previously gave $1.5 million to the Ross School for the Jane M. and Chester R. Jones Undergraduate Scholarship in memory of his parents and for the Dean's Innovation Fund, which helps finance innovative faculty and student projects and programs.
Jones retired in 2002 as president of CIGNA's retirement and investment services division, one of the nation's leading asset management and retirement services firms with assets of more than $80 billion. After joining CIGNA in 1994, he also served as president of several of its other divisions, including property and casualty reinsurance, individual insurance and investment management.