Good for Business

USD Board of Trustees Chair Don Knauss alongside his wife, Ellie.


For the record, the $20 million leadership gift that Donald and Ellie Knauss made to USD’s School of Business really is a donation. But at the ceremony announcing the gift in late November, Don Knauss had a different word for it.

“It’s an investment,” he said, “in the young men and women who will attend this university and the School of Business in the years and decades to come.”

The new facility, which will be named for Don and Ellie Knauss, will be located adjacent to the school’s current headquarters, Olin Hall. Following construction of the new building, the two structures will comprise a consolidated business school complex.

The gift will be leveraged to raise additional resources for the complex, which will triple the School of Business footprint on the mesa. The project is expected to cost approximately $67 million and be completed by 2022.

Knauss says there were three driving factors that motivated the decision by him and Ellie to make the gift.

“First, a strong belief in USD’s mission of developing leaders who are dedicated to ethical behavior and compassionate service to others, most notably the people at USD who are committed to fulfilling the mission,” he explained.

“Second, a belief in a free enterprise system that requires a creation of wealth and that it is done on an equitable and fair playing field so that everyone, regardless of background, has an opportunity to maximize their God-given talents and to create that kind of path forward in business and for business leaders.

“And third, a belief that the School of Business — with Dean Jaime Alonso Gómez’ leadership and a world-class faculty and staff — can really create the kind of servant business leaders that will ensure that the system works for everybody.”

Dean Gómez said that consolidating its educational offerings into one location will by itself improve the quality of the educational experience. Having long ago outgrown its Olin Hall home, many faculty offices and classrooms are scattered throughout campus and in Alcalá West, at the bottom of the hill. He expressed gratitude to the Knausses for their dedication to the School of Business.

“The generosity that Mr. and Mrs. Knauss share with us today enriches and enhances our education with purpose. It takes our school to the next level in our capacity to serve,” said Gómez.

“Our students, faculty and staff will enjoy an educational home that will make learning an intellectual delight. Our faculty and staff will work hand-in-hand to prepare 21st century, career-ready graduates. The collaborative spaces in the complex will assure an education that is innovative, international and integrity-based.”

Don Knauss joined the USD Board of Trustees in 2008, while serving as Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of The Clorox Corporation, where he had overall responsibility for directing the company’s worldwide business, which generated some $5.6 billion in fiscal year 2014. He retired from Clorox as Executive Chairman of the Board in 2015. His experience also includes serving as Executive Vice President and subsequently President and Chief Operating Officer for Coca-Cola North America, as well as various
positions in marketing and sales with PepsiCo, Inc. and Proctor and Gamble. Knauss also served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps.

In announcing the gift, USD President Jim Harris noted that Knauss is a recipient of the ROBIE Award for Achievement in Industry from the Jackie Robinson Foundation, in recognition of his work in cultivating a diverse workforce and promoting youth development.

Knauss referred to the major-league baseball legend and human rights icon as he spoke about what motivated him and his wife, Ellie, to give so generously. “’A life is not important,’” Knauss quoted Robinson, “’except in the impact it has on other lives.’” — Timothy McKernan  

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