Stephanie and John Connaughton Donate $10 Million to Launch ‘Commerce for the Common Good’

The initiative will fund need-based scholarships and create programming to advance the role of business as a force for good in society. The Connaughtons’ gift will be matched by UVA’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund, creating $20 million of impact.

The gift from John and Stephanie Connaughton “will facilitate an array of essential, inventive programming in connection with Commerce for the Common Good.” (Contributed photo)

The gift from John and Stephanie Connaughton “will facilitate an array of essential, inventive programming in connection with Commerce for the Common Good.” (Contributed photo)

Editor’s note: In funding the strategic initiative at McIntire detailed in this article, a portion of the Connaughtons’ gift is also sponsoring the launch of the Connaughton Speaker Series. Register here for the inaugural installment of the series, which takes place April 28 at 10 a.m. in UVA’s Newcomb Hall Ballroom. The event features John Connaughton (McIntire ’87), UVA President James E. Ryan, McIntire Dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins, and a senior panel of industry leaders engaged in an inspirational conversation exploring leadership in the global marketplace at the intersection of commerce and the common good.

The University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce today announced a $10 million gift from John P. Connaughton (McIntire ’87) and Stephanie F. Connaughton to establish the Connaughton Bicentennial Scholars Fund.

Matched with $10 million from the University’s Bicentennial Scholars Fund, the gift creates a total impact of $20 million. The significant commitment by the Connaughtons will endow need-based scholarships for undergraduate students as well as fund efforts to launch “Commerce for the Common Good,” a strategic initiative that will guide the Commerce School in the early part of its second century.

“Having spent our professional careers in the private sector, we believe that business can and must be a constructive force in addressing the enormous issues facing our society and our economy,” said John Connaughton. “This groundbreaking initiative, imagined by President Jim Ryan, Dean Nicole Thorne Jenkins, and the leadership at the McIntire School, will help fuel and prepare students to apply their business and entrepreneurial skills toward addressing a host of critical issues. At the same time, their work will inspire business leaders to do what we can to amplify and enhance the positive impact we can have on the world and in our communities.”

The strategic partnership between the Connaughtons and the McIntire School serves as the first major contribution specifically designated for the development of the School’s vision for Commerce for the Common Good. Recognizing the relevance of commerce as an exchange central to global business and society, the initiative aims to prepare and empower the entire learning community to employ commerce as a powerful mechanism for change. The School-wide effort is designed to foster collaboration, innovation, and cultural fluency among McIntire’s people; expand curricular offerings and provide more Commerce content to the wider UVA community; promote discovery through impactful, inclusive scholarly research; and create opportunities for service and co-curricular engagement within the Commonwealth of Virginia and across the globe.

“John and Stephanie’s generous gift supports expanded access to the School through need-based scholarships for historically underrepresented students while also providing funding for transformative educational experiences throughout the School,” Jenkins said. “This extraordinary commitment will facilitate an array of essential, inventive programming in connection with Commerce for the Common Good.”

In addition to funding scholarships for undergraduate students with financial need, a portion of the donation will also sponsor the launch of the Connaughton Speaker Series. The inaugural installment of the series will take place April 28 at UVA and feature a fireside chat with John Connaughton and a subsequent panel discussion. The series will explore the nexus of business and society through pivotal topics ranging from ethics and climate change to sustainability, social justice, and more.

Commerce for the Common Good aligns with and promotes the University’s overarching goal of serving as a public institution that is “both great and good,” an ambition introduced by Ryan and reflected in the priorities of the University’s strategic plan.

“I’m deeply grateful to John and Stephanie for their generous and visionary gift to launch scholarships, new programming, and a speaker series at McIntire,” said Ryan. “This is an incredibly meaningful investment in McIntire and Dean Jenkins’ leadership–one that will shape generations of future business leaders who will make a difference in the world.”

The Connaughtons’ landmark $10 million gift represents the latest contribution in their longstanding history of supporting McIntire; it follows a $5 million donation they made to the Commerce School in 2019 to create the Connaughton Alternative Investing Professorship Fund. The founding contribution to the McIntire Alternative Investing Initiative is already assisting the School to recruit a top scholar in alternative investing to join the McIntire Finance faculty.

Ultimately, the Connaughtons said they believe that these are timely investments that safeguard the future of McIntire students and the curriculum that enables them to use commerce as an avenue to positively impact society.

“We’re at an interesting crossroads right now. The role of business in society is being questioned,” Connaughton said. “Businesses are being challenged to define how their work impacts all stakeholders, not just shareholders. UVA and the McIntire School are developing and inspiring the next generation to create more well-rounded businesspeople who are ready to have a substantial impact as leaders in our communities.”

Based in Boston, John Connaughton is Co-Managing Partner of Bain Capital, a leading global private investment firm with approximately $160 billion in assets under management. Stephanie Connaughton is an angel investor and senior adviser to a variety of consumer startups following her long career in marketing at Gillette (later P&G).

This story was originally published on UVA Today March 23, 2023.

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