The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business today announced the third-largest gift in its 67-year history. A $44 million investment in Darden from Risk Management Technology founder David M. LaCross and his wife, Kathleen O. LaCross, will strengthen the school and lay the foundation for its future in several ways. With $6 million in matching funds from the University, the total impact of the gift to Darden is $50 million.
“My desire to give back starts with my strong belief in the power of the case method to develop and inspire responsible leaders who will improve the world,” said David LaCross, who earned a Darden MBA in 1978. “I recognized well before graduating that I owed a tremendous debt to Darden for its effective use of the case method, an extraordinary faculty that knew how to get the most out of a class, and my classmates. I hoped from the outset that I would be in a position to give something back someday.”
The gift will support three priorities of Darden’s Powered by Purpose campaign: faculty excellence and thought leadership, student experience, and Grounds and infrastructure.
“I’m so grateful to Dave and Kathy LaCross for their extraordinary generosity in supporting the Darden School, now and for generations to come,” UVA President Jim Ryan said. “With these visionary investments, Dave and Kathy strengthen faculty research, leadership, the student experience and critical facilities at Darden. They are terrific partners not only to Dean Beardsley and to Darden, but also the University as a whole, and I deeply appreciate their thoughtful approach to giving back.”
The overall investment, including the LaCross gift and University funds, includes:
- A $6.5 million bequest toward a future Darden research center or initiative on artificial intelligence.
- $18 million in current funding to endow and name the dean’s chair at Darden, comprising a $12 million gift from the LaCross family, plus $6 million in matching funds from the UVA Bicentennial Professors Fund.
- A $20.5 million lead gift and seed funding to catalyze the construction of on-Grounds quality residential housing at Darden in support of its master plan.
- $5 million to name the botanical gardens at Darden, now under construction.
“On behalf of the Darden community – including the students and faculty who will benefit from this investment – I am grateful to Dave and Kathy LaCross for their leadership and generosity,” Darden Dean Scott Beardsley said. “Thanks to their gift, Darden will continue to focus on delivering the world’s best educational experience through student-centered learning, the case method, high student engagement, talented staff, a supportive community, the world’s best teaching faculty and rigorous research that creates new, practitioner-focused knowledge.”
Both David and Kathy LaCross earned undergraduate degrees from UVA. David LaCross also earned an MBA from Darden. (Contributed photo)
Blazing Trails in Artificial Intelligence and Ethics
The LaCross investment will help Darden establish momentum toward a future research center or initiative on managing artificial intelligence and ethics – an emerging challenge and opportunity for business and society. This effort will build on Darden’s existing collaborations with the School of Data Science and leverage the capabilities of Darden’s Institute for Business in Society and its Olsson Center for Applied Ethics. It will also help Darden contribute toward UVA’s ambitious Grand Challenge Research Initiatives – of which “digital technology and society” is one of the five focus areas. Efforts like this are designed to expand and complement the University’s current research portfolio.
Research centers and initiatives at Darden build a community of experts to advance knowledge, offer student experiences and convene forums with academics and executives to advance business practice. This new effort will help anchor Darden’s position as the leading business school in the ethics and finance space.
Ensuring Strong Future, Visionary Leadership
The LaCross investment will establish and name the dean’s chair with matching funds from UVA’s Bicentennial Professors Fund. Endowing this prominent leadership position honors the school’s tradition of visionary leadership – from Darden’s founding dean, Charles Abbott, to its current dean, Beardsley. By design, this endowment will free funding at the school to bolster investments in faculty excellence. To honor and fulfill the hoped-for impact of the LaCross family, the school intends such investments to include case writing on artificial intelligence; supporting key master plan items to encourage faculty and student collaboration, as well as related faculty and dean’s office enhancements; and teaching excellence.
Making UVA Darden Grounds a Dynamic Environment
The construction of planned on-Grounds residential housing will further enhance Darden’s strong education experience, which The Economist recently rated as the best in the U.S. among full-time MBA programs for the 10th straight year. Revenue-generating investments in Darden’s infrastructure – like this one and the nearly completed on-Grounds boutique hotel – will provide new, sustainable financial support for student and faculty excellence at the school.
“Our hope is that this residential housing gift will not only improve Darden’s educational experience by providing quality on-Grounds residential housing, but also become a financial asset to support outstanding students’ financial need overall, and to attract talented future women leaders in particular via scholarships,” Kathleen LaCross said.
The LaCross gift will also name the botanical gardens – a featured set of thematic green spaces intertwined with the arboretum and boutique hotel on the Darden Grounds – that surround the potential residential housing project and provide connectivity to the Rivanna Trail. The 6-acre botanical gardens will serve UVA as an educational space and feature an outdoor classroom, pond, bridge and more than 5,000 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.
This space will energize North Grounds and create greater connectivity between the School of Law, the Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School, and Darden – while serving as a place where students, faculty, staff and community members interact.
“Dave and Kathy LaCross are incredible leaders, who are very generous in supporting the mission of the school,” said 1988 Darden graduate Martina Hund-Mejean, chair of the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, of which David is currently serving as a member. “Clearly, Dave is honoring his passion for the Darden experience.”
David and Kathleen LaCross are both alumni of the University. David earned a bachelor’s degree in quantitative methods in 1974 with a major in accounting and an MBA from the Darden School in 1978. Kathleen earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from the College of Arts & Sciences in 1976, majoring in psychology. They have two children, Kristin and Michael.
David began his career at BankAmerica Corp., now known as Bank of America. He remained at Bank of America for 10 years and rose to senior vice president by 1989. He left Bank of America to found his own company, Risk Management Technology, which was acquired by Fair Isaac Companies in 1997.
“Dave LaCross is an exceptionally humble man,” Michael Woodfolk, president of the Darden School Foundation, said. “But it’s no exaggeration to say that his support of Darden is an inspiration to all of our alumni. His strong commitment to Darden is driven by a belief that its purpose powers progress and makes a real difference in the world.”