Georgetown received a $50 million gift — the fourth-largest donation in the university’s history — to bolster its athletics leadership program and fund renovations for Multi-Sport Facility, announced Tuesday.
The gift, which came more than a month after the university’s capital campaign passed its goal of $1.5 billion, was contributed by Peter and Susan Cooper of Newport Beach, Calif., the parents of five alumni.
University President John J. DeGioia announced the donation in a university-wide email Tuesday evening.
“The Coopers’ investment in our community will allow us to strengthen opportunities for students engaged in intercollegiate athletics and will help to prepare them for leadership throughout their lives,” DeGioia wrote.
It is the largest donation made in the history of the university’s athletics program, and the fourth-largest donation overall, behind Frank McCourt Jr.’s (CAS ’75) $100 million gift to endow the McCourt School of Public Policy in 2013, Virginia Toulmin’s $75 million donation to the Georgetown University Medical Center in 2010 and Robert McDevitt’s (CAS ’40) $75 million faculty endowment in 2008.
With this donation, the Hoyas Lead program will be renamed the Cooper Athletics Leadership Program, and Multi-Sport Facility, scheduled for renovation in 12 to 18 months, will be renamed Cooper Field.
The donation will expand the athletics leadership program, founded three years ago as an initiative to provide leadership training to Georgetown’s 750 student-athletes through an academic framework. The original program was also entirely funded by an earlier donation from the Coopers.
The university began discussing possible philanthropic projects with the Coopers five years ago. Peter Cooper was previously a member of the university’s board of directors from 2001 to 2006 and from 2007 to 2013, serving as the chairman of the investment subcommittee. Since then, the Coopers have contributed to the financial aid program in addition to Hoyas Lead, having previously donated a total $3 million.
Peter Cooper said that he and his wife were driven to develop the leadership program after witnessing their own children’s involvement in intercollegiate athletics. Three of their sons — Ryan (MSB ’02), Matthew (MSB ’07) and Kris (MSB ’10) — played football, while their daughter Kylie (COL ’02) was on the swim team.
“As a father … I know what [my children] went through — the rigor and the dedication that’s involved in being a student-athlete at Georgetown in terms of meeting the same qualifications as everyone else,” Cooper said. “I was very moved by that experience.”
Building on Hoyas Lead, CALP will provide a four-year curriculum for student-athletes, including classes on the elements of leadership, theories of influence, team dynamics and pre-professional skills.
The donation will also fund additional research for the program and professional development training for coaches. Assistant Athletics Director for Student-Athlete Leadership Mike Lorenzen, who has led Hoyas Lead since its founding in 2012, will continue his role as the director of CALP.
Vice President of Advancement Bart Moore (SFS ’87) said the Coopers and the university identified the program’s expansion as a potential project as they observed its increasing demand among student-athletes.
“A lot of juniors and seniors continue to participate, and that’s evidence that the program has continued to grow, as there is more demand for it,” Moore said.
While the specifics of the expanded program have yet to be determined, the Office of the Provost will work with the athletics department to develop a plan, which includes the possible integration of the courses into the general curriculum.
Vice Provost for Education Randy Bass said that the financial support for a curricular program on leadership is unprecedented.
“It is rare that these kinds of resources can support rigorous development of curriculum and assessment around the question of leadership and co-curricular activities,” Bass wrote in an email to The Hoya. “We look forward to approaching this opportunity … through careful design, thoughtful experimentation and the engagement of the whole community in charting a path.”
Administrators across multiple offices stressed the importance of developing leadership skills among student-athletes.
Athletic Director Lee Reed said that the program will help student-athletes achieve their full potential beyond the sports field.
“It’s a privilege to be a student-athlete at Georgetown University, and with that privilege comes responsibility,” Reed said. “This is a way that we can ensure that student-athletes have the tools and resources they need to be successful beyond the Hilltop.”
Office of the President Chief of Staff Joe Ferrara agreed that student-athletes can apply the leadership and team-building skills fostered by the athletics program to other aspects of their lives.
“CALP honors the idea at the heart of intercollegiate athletics. The leadership our students learn on the field impacts, in a profound way, their formation as women and men, and their ability to respond to the challenges they face throughout their lives,” Ferrara wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Part of the gift will be directed toward completing planned renovations for Multi-Sport Facility, which will include natural seating on the east and north sides and renovated locker rooms. The renovation will continue from the first phase of the facility’s reconstruction, which was funded by $10 million in donations from the previous campaign, ended in 2005.
Multi-Sport Facility renovation will occur alongside the construction of the Thompson Intercollegiate Athletics Center, which was supported through $62 million in donations. The center is expected to open in the summer of 2016.
According to Moore, the renovation project was stalled due to the lack of fundraising, which was brought to the Coopers’ attention as they discussed possible philanthropic projects.
“We had found ourselves in a difficult position with the [Multi-Sport Facility]. … It is very difficult to reinitiate funding for a project that’s been around for a while, but is only half done,” Moore said. “[The Coopers] said, ‘How can we most help you?’ The obvious answer was the completion of the [Multi-Sport Facility].”
Vice President for Planning and Facilities Management Robin Morey said that the renovation plans will align with the existing master planning goals.
“The design of Cooper Field will integrate Georgetown University’s master planning principles to support a pedestrian-friendly campus, improve green space and campus sustainability,” Morey wrote in an email to The Hoya.
Football Head Coach Rob Sgarlata (COL ’94), who coached the Coopers’ three sons on the football team, also said that the renovation will benefit the football program.
“Completing the field is just another piece of the puzzle for the program. It’s going to be a huge boost in recruiting and just another huge show of the commitment to the football program from the school,” Sgarlata said.
According to Moore, multiple projects are lined up after the renovation of Multi-Sports Facility, including an additional residential hall, a new academic building and a renovation or replacement of Yates Field House.
For the time being, Moore said that he hopes the Coopers’ donation will encourage more donations to Georgetown’s endowment.
“Success leads to success in fundraising. Donors like to know they’re giving to a winning team,” Moore wrote in an email to The Hoya. “I think that Peter and Sue’s gift, on top of everything else it will do, also puts us closer to our next transformative gift.”
Hoya Staff Writer Katherine Richardson contributed to reporting.
Correction: An earlier version of the article said that the Coopers’ donation was the second-largest in the university’s history.