A University of Virginia Darden School of Business alumnus and his wife, also a U.Va. graduate, have added $50 million to an earlier gift of $44 million for the business school, which adds up to the largest donation in Darden’s 68-year history.
Philanthropists David and Kathleen LaCross made a $44 million donation in October 2022, at the time the school’s third largest donation, and that gift spurred $6 million in matching funds from the university.
With last week’s $50 million addition, the gift is more than $107 million with matching funds from the university and is now the largest in the school’s 68 years, placing the LaCross family among the top five contributors to U.Va.’s $5 billion “Honor the Future” capital campaign, U.Va. said in a news release.
David LaCross, who founded a small California tech company that he sold in 1997, earned his MBA from Darden in 1978, and his wife, Kathleen LaCross, graduated in 1976 from U.Va.’s College of Arts and Sciences. Their gift to Darden will help pay for new artificial intelligence technology programming and a residential college at Darden. According to U.Va., the 2022 gift launched the Artificial Intelligence Initiative at Darden, and with the $50 million addition, the work will expand to the school’s Institute for Business in Society and the Olsson Center for Applied Ethics.
“Dave and Kathy LaCross have once again demonstrated extraordinary generosity and vision with their investments and confidence in Darden and in U.Va.,” U.Va. President James Ryan said in a statement. “They have my deepest admiration and gratitude.”
LaCross worked for 10 years at Bank of America and then founded Berkeley, California-based financial tech company Risk Management Technologies, which he sold in 1997 to Fair, Isaac and Co., now known as FICO. In 2014, he and his son, Michael, cofounded Morgan Territory Brewing, a craft beer brewer in California’s Central Valley.
The gift will fund research and instruction in AI, including its ethical implications for management, as well as challenges and opportunities it presents for business and society. The school launched an initiative in artificial intelligence with the couple’s 2022 gift and this latest donation comes as it kicks off “Faculty Forward,” the second milestone under the school’s “Powered by Purpose” campaign, which raised its $400 million goal two years before it concludes in 2025. The second milestone included a priority for Darden and U.Va. to become leaders in research, teaching and deployment of AI and other innovative technologies in business.
“Students need to be exposed to AI in meaningful ways, and there is no business school better positioned to teach managers how to work with AI in ethical and responsible ways than Darden,” LaCross said during the gift’s announcement, which followed a dedication of the newly named LaCross Botanical Gardens behind The Forum Hotel, a Kimpton property that opened in April on Darden’s grounds.