Eight zeroes: Batten gives record gift to UVA

University of Virginia President John Casteen announced today that retired media mogul Frank Batten, Sr. has donated $100 million– the largest gift in UVA's history– to establish the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy.

The school will offer both undergraduate and graduate programs, work in conjunction with other UVA schools and departments, and, according to Casteen, "cultivate future generations of leaders dedicated to the common good." It is the first new school UVA has created since establishing the Darden Graduate School of Business in 1954.

“There's an urgent need to develop a new generation of entrepreneurial leaders who can bring about transformational change,” Batten says in a UVA press release. “Talented public leaders are needed from a range of professional backgrounds, including law, medicine, business administration and the social sciences. It is critical to get younger people excited about the responsibilities and opportunities of public service in all its manifestations."

The 80-year-old Batten first began his association with UVA in 1946, when he enrolled as a freshman. After graduating from Grounds in 1950 and promptly earning his MBA from Harvard in 1952, he went to work for the newspaper his uncle had founded, now Norfolk's Virginian-Pilot. He had previously spent his summers as a copy boy and later a reporter, but this time he decided to give the business side of the paper a try. By the time he was 27, he had become publisher.

From there, he built the media conglomerate Landmark Communications, which owns Richmond's Style Weekly, The Roanoke Times, Greensboro, North Carolina's News and Record, CBS affiliates in Nashville and Las Vegas, and the cable cash cow that is The Weather Channel. He retired as chairman and CEO in 1998. In last year's Forbes Richest Americans list, Batten ranked 278th with an estimated personal worth of $1.4 billion.

In 1999, Batten had donated $60 million to the Darden School to establish an entrepreneurship division called the Batten Institute. He also gave $32 million to Harvard Business School's capital campaign in 2003.

UVA provost Gene Block will appoint a steering committee for the Batten School in the coming weeks. The school is scheduled to open its doors in the fall of 2009.



The odd thing is, Gene Block's expertise is in circadian rhythms, too. Maybe Takahashi will also be the new provost?

We don't need another HERO! Especially a rich one who seeks self-agrandizement. Wouldn't it be great if somebody actually did something with a modicrum of humility?

Does this duplicate service of other schools? Doesn't U.Va already have the Sorensen center for political leadership, as the Weldon Cooper center for public policy? Given Batten's background, why isn't this going to be a school for journalism? The University lacks such a school, and the state of journalism in the United States is atrocious.

Or rather, the state of a market for good journalism is atrocious. The country needs fewer "leaders" and needs better education and better news.

Whose "common good" is this school going to achieve, except provide a justification for graduates to get paid slightly more? At first I bristled at "Whatever"'s tone, but the more I think about it, the more I think that person is right.

Second response on this... I hope journalists will ask the questions I've raised above. On the same day, the University also announced tuition will be going up. Nice how that story doesn't quite get as much play today.

Note how John Kluge just recently gave $400 million to Columbia - most of it will go to student aid and scholarships. It would seem to me that that would create a hell of a lot more leaders than a new school.

What a lame attempt by the Hook to validate their lame story. Where is the money for student aid in the U.S.? Oh! We spent it all on a world famous molecular biologist. He doesn't know how to teach but he will bring the University so much prestige! Oh yaaaaa.