The University of Virginia received the largest gift in its history—$100 million—on April 12 from retired Landmark Communications, Inc. executive Frank Batten, Sr. The dough will go to create the Frank Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the first addition to UVA’s academic structure since the Darden School was established in 1954.
Frank Batten, 79, (second from left) and UVA higher-ups John “Dubby” Wayne (left), John T. Casteen III and Gene Block speak to the media in the Rotunda’s Dome Room. Batten’s $100 million donation brings UVA’s capital campaign contributions to $1.19 billion.
Following a white table-clothed luncheon in the Rotunda’s Dome Room with Batten, members of UVA’s Board of Visitors, UVA’s president and other top administrators, the Board unanimously approved the creation of the school. Batten, 79, spoke in an ailing voice of the need for more leaders in society. “Never has there been a greater need for the University’s most important product: enlightened and ethical leaders who leave the Grounds prepared for public life,” Batten said.
Batten, of Virginia Beach, graduated from UVA in 1950, and then got an MBA from Harvard Business School. He became publisher of Landmark Communications at age 27. The company was owned by his uncle, Samuel Slover.
Landmark now owns The Weather Channel, several TV stations, seven daily newspapers, including The Virginian-Pilot, and Style Weekly in Richmond.
Batten ranked 278th on last year’s Forbes list of the wealthiest Americans, with an estimated net worth of $1.4 billion. He gave $60 million to Darden in 1999, the third largest gift in UVA’s history. His recent gift brings UVA’s capital campaign funds to $1.19 billion.
The Batten School will offer a five-year master’s program in public policy for undergrads beginning this year. Eventually, it will offer an undergraduate major in public policy, a master of public leadership for professionals, and graduate programs in public policy and foreign service/global affairs.
At a small press conference following the announcement, President John T. Casteen, III said a leadership school is a natural extension of what alumni expect from UVA, since its reputed honor system already strives to teach ethical decision making.
Casteen would not comment much on the “extraordinary” location for the new school, except to say they will repurpose an existing building. A reporter asked if the location was somewhere where basketball used to be played—Casteen said the new leadership school will not be located in U-Hall.
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