UMSL chancellor gives $2 million to the school

The University of Missouri-St. Louis, which just finished a record fundraising year, is getting another $2 million boost, this time from its top leader.

UMSL Chancellor Thomas George and his wife, Barbara Harbach, have made a $2 million gift to the school’s College of Fine Arts and Communication. Harbach is a music professor at the college. And George, a chemist by training, is an accomplished jazz pianist who often performs on campus and around town.

The gift comes in the midst of a seven-year capital campaign the school began in 2005. The school is still in the quiet phase, but is set to launch the public phase of the campaign in September. The school has not yet publicly disclosed the fundraising goal for the campaign, but has already raised more than $75 million towards it.

“Most important to me was the decision to make this gift to UMSL at this time,” Harbach said in a news release. “Tom is leading the university through its largest fundraising campaign ever. We thought it was essential that he show other potential donors that we ourselves are making a significant personal commitment to the community and campus.”

The school has been ramping up for the public phase of the campaign in the last year or so, nearly doubling the number of fundraisers on staff. The efforts have already been paying off, despite the recession during which many organizations have been struggling to raise money. The school announced recently that it raised $26.9 million in the last fiscal year — a 54 percent increase over the previous year.

George and Harbach are not the first university leaders to give generously from their own pockets. Gary Forsee, the president of the UM system and the former CEO of Sprint, gave $1 million last year to help purchase high-definition videoconferencing technology for the system’s four campuses. Before he became president, Forsee also gave $2 million to the Missouri University of Science and Technology toward that campus’ $200 million fundraising campaign, of which he had been co-chairman.

George and Harbach, who have spent their careers in academia, came to UMSL about six years ago from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point. Last year, George’s salary as chancellor was $292,578 and Harbach made $72,800 as a music professor. They live in a university residence and don’t have any children.

The Grade is the St. Louis region’s premier blog on education and child welfare. To read other recent posts, go to www.stltoday,com/thegrade.