SMG Receives $10 Million Gift

in Alumni, News, School
May 17th, 2012

Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation endows two professorships

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In this video, Allen Questrom (SMG’64) and Kenneth Freeman, Allen Questrom Professor and Dean of the School of Management, talk about the Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation’s $10 million gift.


Allen Questrom (SMG’64), retired chief executive officer of several of the nation’s largest department and specialty stores, and his wife, Kelli, have made a second major gift to Boston University, giving $10 million from the Allen & Kelli Questrom Foundation to the School of Management, which Allen Questrom credits with launching his 39-year career as a leader in retail management.

The $10 million gift will endow two professorships and kick-start plans for a new School of Management executive education center, according to Kenneth Freeman, the Allen Questrom Professor and Dean of SMG. “This represents one of the most significant gifts in the history of the School of Management, as we approach our 100th anniversary in 2013,” says Freeman, who describes Questrom as “an icon of corporate America.” While details of the endowed chairs are being worked out, he says, the professorships will have many indirect impacts as the faculty increases its emphasis on ethics in business. “That’s the beauty of the Questrom name, which is synonymous with business success, business results, and the highest integrity,” Freeman says.

“We are grateful that Allen and Kelli Questrom share with us a vision for the future of the School of Management, and that they are willing to so generously help make our aspirations a reality,” says BU President Robert A. Brown. “Their gift will help to attract and support distinguished faculty members and seed the fundraising for a new extension to the school’s facilities. Together these initiatives will further strengthen the quality of the education available to our students, and help place the School of Management in the forefront of business schools worldwide.”

This is the Questroms’ second major gift to SMG. In 2007, the Allen & Kelli Questrom Foundation gave $4 million for the endowed deanship and professorship. Former SMG Dean Louis Lataif (SMG’61, Hon.’90) was the first Allen Questrom Professor and Dean, the chair now held by Freeman. The chair is the only endowed deanship at BU. Questrom, a member of the BU Board of Trustees, is a former chairman of the board and chief executive officer of the J. C. Penney Company, Neiman Marcus, Barneys New York, and Federated Department Stores, Inc., which today is known as Macy’s.

“I wouldn’t have found a fitting career in retailing without BU, so I have a very clear responsibility to give back,” says Questrom. The first in his family to attend a university, he studied finance and marketing, but had “no idea” what he wanted to do until he excelled in an elective course in retailing. He says his marketing professor, A. E. Beckwith, “was very instrumental in pushing me to attend a particular retail interview, and when I did I was attracted to the company for its great training program.” His SMG course work gave him a substantial academic edge, adds Questrom, who took the job and went on to legendary success, restoring to health several retail corporations, saving and creating thousands of jobs, and himself ranking in the Forbes list of highest paid executives for several years running. “I probably wouldn’t have qualified for that first job if I hadn’t gone to BU,” he says, “so I want BU and SMG to be a priority in my charitable interests.” Questrom says he expects his gift, with its endowment of the new professorships, to help boost SMG’s national rankings.

Endowing the two professorships “is very important,” says Freeman, “as we up the ante on our research capability and credibility” at the national and international levels. “What we aspire to do is become one of the world’s elite business schools.” Endowment of faculty chairs will help fuel that rise, Freeman says, “because a large part of what is used to evaluate business programs is faculty capability in terms of research output.” SMG now has 11 endowed professorships, and the dean hopes to double that number.

Questrom spent most of his career in retailing with Federated Department Stores, Inc., rising from management trainee in 1964 to the corporation’s youngest chairman and chief executive officer in 1990. He brought the company out of bankruptcy in 1993, and in 1995 engineered the acquisition of rivals Broadway Department Stores and the R. H. Macy Company, Inc. He retired in 1997, and returned to retailing a year later as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Barneys New York, Inc., bringing the fashion emporium out of bankruptcy in 1999, and creating a new division of Barneys, the Coop Stores. From September 2000 through 2004, he served as chairman and chief executive officer of the J. C. Penney Company, leading a successful turnaround of the corporation’s department store, catalog, and internet businesses.

Questrom has served since 2006 as a senior advisor of Lee Equity Partners, LLC. He also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc., Foot Locker, Inc., and the Glazer Family of Companies. He is on the Board of Advisors of the Robin Report, which provides insight into consumer product industries. He is a member of the Aspen Art Museum National Council, the National Committee of the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City, and the Board of Trustees of the Aspen Music Festival & School.

Questrom says he’s “totally amazed” at how much BU has evolved and improved since his days as a student here. He lauds the achievements of Brown, saying, “I believe Dr. Brown is going to make sure that we have a continuation of our advancing standards at Boston University.”

“It’s a remarkable gift,” says Freeman, “and a remarkable commitment to our faculty.”

By Susan Seligson via BU Today. Video by Alan Wong and BU Productions. Additional videography by Phil Zekos, Mark Helton, Chris Palmer, and Nancy Marrs.