A gift of $100 million from former Los Angeles Dodgers owner Frank McCourt Jr. (CAS ’75) will help create the McCourt School of Public Policy, Georgetown’s ninth school and its first new school since the School of Business Administration in 1957, the university announced Wednesday.
McCourt’s gift is the largest Georgetown has ever received, breaking a 2010 record set by Harry Toulmin Jr.’s $87 million endowment to support medical research granted through a charitable trust established in his will. The son of Rafik B. Hariri, for whom the new business school building is named, donated $20 million to the university.
The McCourt School was first conceptualized during a conversation between McCourt and University President John J. DeGioia at a 2006 Board of Directors meeting. It will incorporate the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, which is currently part of the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, in its emphasis on a data-driven study of public policy through a Center for Politics and Policy at the McCourt School, a Massive Data Institute and the McCourt Fellows Program.
“Following the first World War, we created our Walsh School of Foreign Service to contribute to global peace by preparing young diplomatic leaders,” DeGioia told reporters Wednesday morning. “In 1957, we started what is now our McDonough School of Business as a recognition of America’s place in a growing world economy. And now, we have the ability to build on our existing strengths once again to meet the needs of the complex and evolving field of public policy and its application in solving global challenges.”
The Massive Data Institute will focus on data from government agencies in its policy analysis, emphasizing the role of data in informing work on healthcare, education, poverty and other policy areas, while the fellowship program will offer full scholarships to students and five endowed faculty positions along with other faculty openings, including interdisciplinary and inter-school appointments.
“It is clear that the problems facing this country and many other countries in the world don’t come packaged in little boxes that can be solved only by economists or only by political scientists with their knowledge of their discipline, but what we need really are interdisciplinary teams,” Provost Robert Groves said.
“We have at this moment in the country — because of the rise of the Internet, because all of the records that used to be on paper from government agencies of the federal, state and local level are now digitized — vast data resources that can guide the analysis of what works and what doesn’t work in very practical ways, so answers to the puzzling questions of how can we as a society approach these knotty problems now have information resources we didn’t have before,” added Groves, who previously served as director of the U.S. Census Bureau.
The McCourt School will initially be housed in Old North, which is currently the home of GPPI, andGPPI Dean Edward Montgomery will be dean of the new school. DeGioia said that the university plans to look for a location “in the heart of the policy-formation part of the city” for the McCourt School in the long term.
Many current GPPI faculty members also teach undergraduates, and a move downtown could make crossover between the school and main campus difficult.
“That’s going to be one of our main challenges for many of us who also work with undergraduates,” said Mark Rom, a GPPI faculty member and co-director of undergraduate studies in government. “The farther we move away from campus, the harder it will be to maintain our true relationship with main campus.”
McCourt, who is president of the real estate development firm McCourt Global, served on Georgetown’s board of directors from 2005 to 2011 and co-chaired the university’s Third Century Campaign in the New England region. His family ties with Georgetown are extensive; his father, two brothers and one of four sons are also alumni. A member of the McCourt family, Alexandra McCourt, is a current undergraduate.
Nationally, he is best known for his eight-year tenure as owner of the Dodgers, which took the team into bankruptcy in 2011. McCourt fired his wife, Jamie McCourt, as the team’s chief executive in 2009 and then battled her in a messy divorce before selling the team in 2012.
His gift to Georgetown marks a milestone in the university’s Campaign for Georgetown, which aims to raise $1.5 billion by 2016 and reached the $1 billion milestone last March.
“Me and my family have had the real privilege of being part of this world-class institution, in my case literally my entire life,” McCourt said Wednesday. “We’ve had an 82-year-old relationship that grows and thrives. … Georgetown is part of my family.”
DeGioia emphasized the serendipity of McCourt’s interest and Georgetown’s renewed focus on public policy.
“Our announcement today represents the convergence of the right idea, the right university, the right family and the right city at the right time,” DeGioia said.
The McCourt School’s official launch will occur at an academic ceremony on Copley Lawn on Oct. 8 at 5:30 p.m., with a larger event featuring members of Congress and other D.C. figures to follow Oct. 9.