The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation has announced a seven-year, $113 million grant to the University of California, Berkeley to create one hundred endowed faculty chairs and slow the exodus of top professors to wealthy, private universities.
The largest private gift in UC Berkeley history will be used to endow chairs across all of the university's fourteen schools and colleges as part of a one-to-one match with other donations. To be disbursed over seven years, the grant includes $110 million for an endowment and $3 million to help manage endowed funds at Berkeley. According to the Los Angeles Times, the grant and matching funds will endow eighty chairs at $2 million each — in line with the practice at private universities — and twenty "distinguished" chairs spanning multiple academic areas at $3 million each.
The grant is designed to help compensate for cutbacks in state funding that threaten to erode the quality of the university. UC officials have assured the foundation that the grant will be a supplement to state funding rather than a substitute for it.
The value of endowments at elite private universities has soared in recent years. Harvard University, with an endowment of nearly $30 billion, leads the way, while nearby Stanford University has an endowment of approximately $15 billion. While Berkeley's endowment totals $2.5 billion, nearly all the funds are restricted to specific purposes. That disparity has meant that other institutions have been able to lure top professors with salaries as much as 20 percent larger than Berkeley can offer. The Hewlett gift, if matched, will increase the university's current 351 endowed chairs by 30 percent and provide funding to recruit top graduate students, who likewise are being offered substantial incentives by private schools.
Professors who hold named chairs are often recognized as the leaders in their discipline. The new chairs will be spread throughout the university, which has thirty-five departments ranked in the top ten nationally. "Berkeley is the crown jewel of public higher education — not just in California but in the country," said Hewlett Foundation board chair Walter Hewlett. "The foundation's grant represents our vote of confidence in a truly great institution."