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Record Gift Renames SMG Questrom School of Business

Allen and Kelli Questrom give $50 million for top faculty, new building


Boston University trustee Allen Questrom (Questrom’64), retired chief executive officer of several of the nation’s largest department and specialty stores, and his wife, Kelli, have given Boston University $50 million, the largest gift in University history, through their Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation. The gift, announced by President Robert A. Brown at a naming ceremony at the school on Monday, includes $10 million given in 2012, and renames the School of Management the Questrom School of Business. It will be used to endow 10 faculty chairs and enable planning to establish a new graduate program facility.

“We are enormously grateful for this magnificent gift,” says Kenneth Freeman, the school’s Allen Questrom Professor and Dean. “Allen Questrom is a retailing industry icon, having restored to profitability many companies during his turnaround career, while demonstrating the highest integrity, exceptional leadership, and tireless service in support of others.” The endowed deanship and professorship were given by the Questroms in 2007.

“The gift is transformational, enabling us to attract outstanding faculty widely recognized for excellence in research and teaching who will contribute meaningfully to our mission of educating ethical, innovative business leaders,” Freeman adds. “With the Questroms’ generous support, we will be able to accelerate our transformation and better prepare the next generation of bold leaders.”

“This is a singular moment in the history of the school and the University,” says Brown. “The gift will both propel the school on the path of increased impact and quality and will forever associate it with the name of one of the most distinguished businessmen in America and one of Boston University’s most distinguished graduates.”

Brown says the 10 new professors will enhance the research and teaching of the Questrom School of Business, “while shifting a portion of the cost of the salaries and benefits of these distinguished faculty members from tuition to the endowment…the Questroms have raised our sights on the impact of philanthropy at Boston University.”

The Questroms’ donation also provides seed funding for the school to study the addition of new 60,000-square-foot classroom space that will connect to its existing building. Since moving into its current home in 1996, the school has expanded significantly. The building was originally designed to accommodate 1,700 students, but now welcomes 3,500 undergraduate and graduate students.

The gift comes two and a half years after BU announced its first-ever comprehensive fundraising campaign, with a target of $1 billion. BU is the first university to set a $1 billion goal for a first campaign. The $50 million pledge brings the campaign total to $823 million, and the University is on track to meet its overall goal well before the scheduled completion date of 2017.

Questrom says both he and his wife, Kelli, take great pride and pleasure in being able to pay forward the blessings of a combination of good luck and hard work that have enriched their lives, beginning with Allen Questrom’s education at Boston University. “When one looks at where investment can do the most good,” he says, “you have to think of innovation in our schools, because second only to the positive influence of family values, the route to earned success is to be well educated.” He notes that his own retail career began with a BU retailing course taught by one of his professors, the late Allen Beckwith (Hon.79).

“I wouldn’t call him a fashion maven,” Questrom says with a smile, but “he was a very, very passionate” teacher, who believed in his students and wanted to help them succeed.” Beckwith praised Questrom’s work, and encouraged him to find the right career, but the young graduate had another idea: he wanted to become a ski instructor. The winter after his graduation was short on snowfall, Questrom recalls, and he took a call from his very determined and pragmatic former teacher. “Beckwith says, ‘Look, how can you be a ski instructor? There’s no snow. I’ve arranged for a couple of retail interviews for you in Boston and New York.’”

He agreed to an interview in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the venerable Abraham & Straus, a division of Federated Department Stores, which was known for its outstanding training program. When he was offered a slot on an executive training squad (he liked the athletic sound of that) starting the following Monday, he signed on and returned to Boston to pack and move to Brooklyn.

“That weekend, we had the biggest snowstorm of the year—two feet of snow,” he says. “But I’d already committed to them and wouldn’t break my word.” Swearing all the way, he drove to Brooklyn in his VW and got a room at the Y. He quickly discovered that Beckwith’s retail classes had taught him well, giving him an edge over all the other trainees. He also discovered a love of, and natural talent for, the “schmatta” business. (Beckwith’s classes even taught the retail jargon.)

“I would hope that students, as they go through school and into a career, will periodically reflect on their life, to pay mental homage to the people who helped them along the way,” Questrom says, “and to recognize that as they ‘make good,’ they have a responsibility to ‘do good,’ to pay it forward by helping the next generation. And I believe that our colleges and universities are a real pivotal point on each generation: how well we educate our students determines how well each generation will deal with the issues of its time.”

Swapping “business” for “management” in the new school’s name, the dean says, reflects the former word’s greater scope, “representing the vast and vibrant range of industries, encompassing everything from for-profit to nonprofit enterprises around the world, for which we aim to prepare our students.” The school, which offers courses through the executive and doctoral levels, already places particular emphasis on sectors such as digital technology, social enterprise and sustainability, and health and life sciences.

Questrom spent most of his career in retailing with Federated Department Stores, Inc., rising from management trainee in 1964 to corporate executive vice president in 1987. After Federated succumbed to a hostile takeover by a Canadian real estate mogul in 1988, he left Federated to steer the turnaround of Neiman Marcus. He returned to Federated in 1990 and brought the company out of bankruptcy in 1993. In 1995, he engineered the acquisition of rivals Broadway Department Stores and R. H. Macy Company, Inc. He retired in 1997 from Federated Stores, soon to become the new Macy’s, Inc., but a short time later returned to retailing as chairman, president, and chief executive officer of Barneys New York, Inc., bringing the fashion emporium out of bankruptcy in 1999, and creating the new COOP division. From 2000 to 2005, Questrom, as the JCPenney Company, Inc.’s first “outsider” chairman and CEO in its nearly 100-year history, directed the successful turnaround of its department store, catalog, and internet businesses.

Questrom has served since 2006 as a senior advisor of Lee Equity Partners. He is a director of the Glazer Family of Companies and is on the board of Men’s Wearhouse, Inc., and the At Home retail chain and the board of advisors of The Robin Report, which provides insight into consumer product industries. He is a former director of Foot Locker, Inc., Sotheby’s Holdings, Inc., and Walmart. Questrom is a trustee of BU, his alma mater, where in 2012 the Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation endowed two School of Management professorships, in addition to the earlier gift creating the endowed deanship and professorship. He a former trustee of the Aspen Music Festival & School; the Questroms underwrite student scholarships there. Allen and Kelli Questrom, as proponents of the principles of liberty, individual opportunity, and free enterprise, are members of the National Council of the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, one of the nation’s most highly respected problem-solving think tanks.

Retiring from her fashion promotion career in 1986 to become active in civic life following what she describes as a “blessedly early” diagnosis of breast cancer, Kelli Questrom became an advocate for preventive medicine, speaking by invitation on Capitol Hill. In the mid-1980s, she cofounded the Greater Los Angeles Partnership for the Homeless, which resulted in the establishment of L.A.’s Downtown Women’s Center, and served in the 1990s on the first national board of directors of Design Industries Foundation Fighting Aids. For 7 years she has served as a trustee of the Aspen Art Museum, and for 12 years as a Dallas Museum of Art trustee. The Allen and Kelli Questrom Foundation has endowed these two museums’ educational programming, as well as the free docented tours program for public and charter school students at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Questrom was a trustee of the Whitney in the 1990s, and the Questroms are currently members of its National Committee. Kelli Questrom is also a member of the board of trustees of the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, a nationally recognized dance company that performs, produces, and teaches classical ballet and folkloric and African dance forms.

In the video above, watch the naming ceremony for the Questrom School of Business. Video by BU Productions

More on the Questrom Gift


45 Comments on Record Gift Renames SMG Questrom School of Business

  • CAS student on 03.30.2015 at 10:39 am

    Why not take half of that and give it to CAS? BU is like a small country with widening inequality across campus. CAS looks like a highschool, while SMG is a 5-star hotel. I pay the same tuition yet don’t receive a fraction of the resources that school of management students receive. How is it that SMG even needs donations? And to spend it on faculty? why not in scholarships to students who are already struck with enormous debt?

    • anonymous on 03.30.2015 at 10:46 am

      Because the person donating the money can say what the school is to do with it…and who are you to tell a person what to do with their money?

      • CAS student on 03.30.2015 at 11:43 am

        It is a question of long-term impact and effective allocation of resources. SMG is flooded with donations, which, hey, is great to see, it means that graduates are very successful and want to give back, and if an alum wants to donate to SMG they have every right to do so. I guess it is more a matter of the BU administration acting effectively or at least as an advocate for other branches of its university. For example, mugar library resembles a prison and I could not tell you the last time it was updated. SMG was updated 2 years ago. and 2 years before that…and the furniture in perfect condition. where did these “hammy-down” pieces of furniture go? the basment of mugar. The university is not acting in a smart and sustainable way.

        • Melissa on 03.30.2015 at 2:09 pm

          It’s “hand-me-down.”

          All the more reason why schools other than SMG need more funding. :)

        • Student on 03.30.2015 at 3:17 pm

          It’s not BU’s decision as to what college receives money. The donor decides where the money is to be spent. If BU turned around and told Questrom that his $50M would be half spent in CAS he would not have donated. Why would Questrom, an SMG alum, donate to a college he had virtually no involvement in, beyond his gen Ed classes? Would an Engineering alum make a donation to COM? No. It makes sense for a donor to donate to the college they graduated, it’s where they made all their connections and received all their education relevant to their career. BU had the option of receiving $50M to spend on the School of Management just to put a name on the building, or receive no money so they can be ‘fair’ to all the kids in CAS. Newsflash undergrad, life isn’t fair. Find your own rich alums.

        • BU student on 04.01.2015 at 12:33 am

          I’d say that CAS is already doing significantly better than CGS and CFA.

          So, is CAS doing anything to help these schools? No, and they probably don’t expect CAS, COM, SMG, or any other school to! It is not within other schools’ responsibility or maybe even capability to do so!

          Ironic how we tend focus on our own schools, huh? I wonder why you only mentioned CAS on your comment about inequality…

    • J on 03.30.2015 at 11:11 am

      When you give money, you’re allowed to say where and how you want that money spent. Obviously, he’s giving to SMG instead of CAS because he went to SMG. And maybe he had a professor that helped him out while he was a student, and that’s why he wants to give back in that way. Who knows? CAS alums can donate to only CAS-related things too. That’s the way it works.

    • Anonymous on 03.30.2015 at 11:12 am

      Simple. All CAS needs to do is produce a graduate who can donate $50 million and the problem should work itself out

    • Anon on 03.30.2015 at 11:20 am

      What resources do SMG students receive that CAS students don’t? I graduated from CAS and I’m genuinely curious. The school itself my look much nicer, but I don’t think the quality of the faculty is different.

      • Anonymous on 03.30.2015 at 12:09 pm

        I am a current student enrolled in CAS, and an employee at SMG (Questrom School of Business). Working in SMG throughout my college career has shed light on just how much better I believe the facilities, advising, resources and support of the School of Management truly are. In my four years at CAS, I have found the advising to be extremely poor, as well as the career guidance they offer. In no way do I feel like I am part of a “community.” While this is harder because CAS is bigger, several differences still apply.

        • kitty on 03.30.2015 at 2:07 pm

          A lot has to do with what each Dean chooses to consider priorities and the goals they have set for the services– from instruction to advising — provided by their schools and colleges.

          I doubt that if the Dean of CAS included an overhaul of advising in his or her budget priorities, the request would fall on deaf administrative ears. The quality of advising at CAS varies from department to department and to the main advising staff. Complaints about CAS advising have been numerous and consistent for at least 20 years

          • Anonymous on 03.30.2015 at 2:42 pm

            The fact that advising complaints have been consistent for 20 years provides all the more evidence that there should be room in the budget for some kind of reform to the advising services. Matching the quality of the advising of SMG is not in any way what I am looking for, but there should be some sort of policy implemented that prevents careless professors with no time for students from giving out misguided information. I believe good advising is extremely important and perhaps underrated considering the amount tuition has risen to in recent years.

          • Virginia Sapiro on 03.30.2015 at 5:21 pm

            As Dean of CAS, I am happy to say that we have put considerable new resources into advising, and changed it substantially. New in the last few years: every CAS student is assigned an individual advisor as soon as he/she decides to come here. We have hired many wonderful new advisors who are professionals in their fields, and have more specialized advisors to deal with particular issues; we created the CAS First Year Experience, which has been growing by leaps and bounds; we created a strong and effective peer advising group; students whose grades after the first semester show they are having trouble are assigned special advisors, including a peer advisor; we have extended hours at the advising office into the evening; we are offering more training to departmental and other advisors; we have more on-line tools to assist with advising; the university invested a huge amount in the wonderful 100 BSR facility, where CAS Advising is now co-located with the Writing Program, the ERC, the Center for Career Development. There’s always room for improvement, but that’s a lot and I’m proud of it — very happy to hear more suggestions! But it is SO different in so many ways from a few years ago. But also: I’m so grateful to the Questroms for supporting the University and SMG. Thank you! … Virginia Sapiro, Dean of Arts & Sciences

      • SMG Alum on 03.30.2015 at 12:20 pm

        SMG students and faculty tend to be better than CAS on average. It is simply a more selective and more focused school. CAS has its share of programs that are better than SMG, but it also has a handful that really drag down the averages.

        Other than that SMG has more in depth career services.

    • David on 03.30.2015 at 11:38 am

      The issue with this comment and others is that they fail to realize this:

      While Questrom School of Business students pay equal tuition as any other school, they actually receive LESS money from BU than any other school. Look it up, Questrom/SMG receive LESS funding than CAS.

      The reason BU Questrom/SMG looks the way it does is because we have a Dean of Students (Kenneth Freeman) who spends extremely long hours working to find donors to give money to the Questrom School. It is his efforts (and the efforts of the Deans preceding him) that allows SMG to have the things that it does.

      If you want to see real change, fight your Deans to work harder. Or fight Dean Elmore to fire your Deans and find ones that have the connections and will put in the effort to find funding.

      • katcorn on 03.30.2015 at 12:46 pm

        Just a quick correction: Dean Freeman is a Dean of the School, not the Dean of Students of the School. Dean Elmore also has no oversight of the academic deans – the Provost does.

    • SMG Alum on 03.30.2015 at 11:42 am

      You sound jealous CAS student, like you’re just now realizing your English degree won’t ever pay off that $80k of student loan debt.

      A $50 million donation is incredible, and should be lauded not criticized.

      • CAS student on 03.30.2015 at 12:51 pm

        I would hardly say “jealousy” was the tone of my comment. But your condescending attitude I suppose would suggest otherwise? As an IR major, for the record, yes, assuredly it will take me my life to pay back my student loans…as jobs in that field, and I’m sure for English, sociology, and other majors you may like to belittle, aren’t going to make 6 figures like your typical financial analyst at Morgan Stanley (which is an incredible job/achievement, no doubt).

        A $50 million donation is indeed wonderful and I am grateful to attend a school where alumni do give back. It is just frustrating that the same efforts are not made for CAS, which needs certainly improvements, in the same way. It is not the fault of the alumni, but the deans of CAS and its administration to attain necessary resources to provide equal education opportunities for its students.

        To put you back on your pedestal, I am applying for the Master of Science in Management Studies program at SMG after I graduate… so I guess the joke’s on me.

        • FYI on 03.30.2015 at 2:32 pm

          Just so you know, CAS recently received one of the largest donations in BU’s history. Frederick S. Pardee donated $25 million to the school (http://www.bu.edu/today/2013/frederick-s-pardee-endows-new-international-affairs-school/), which, at the time, matched the University’s largest donation ever. The money wasn’t used to improve facilities, but it will no doubt improve CAS and some if its programs substantially.

        • Student on 03.30.2015 at 3:23 pm

          I’m not sure what you want the deans of CAS to do. It’s not common that someone wants to donate 7 figures, much less 8 figures, to a college. It simply comes down to whether or not there is an alum with extra money and the will to donate. If you think Dean Ken Freeman was pounding down Allen Questrom’s door asking for $50M, that’s simply not the case.

    • BU Student on 03.30.2015 at 4:43 pm

      Why don’t you think about the fact that Questrom went to SMG? It would make absolutely no sense for him to donate money and then for it to be used towards something or a school he literally took no part in. Ever think that maybe you just don’t make use of the resources you have available? There’s clearly a difference in the type of students that attend SMG over CAS and maybe when a CAS alum is making enough money that they can donate even a million dollars to CAS, you should give them a call and see if they will help out since it is clearly needed.

    • Joe on 01.08.2016 at 10:04 am

      because he went to the SMG. really?

  • Student on 03.30.2015 at 10:47 am

    That’s great and all, but it’s a slap in the face to post this article only several days after the tuition raises were announced, complete with quotes about “needing funding to maintain faculty/student ratios and supporting newly formed positions.”
    It’s not hard to see that the class divide is growing and growing here at BU, where we hear about plans for the newest StuVi while our ceilings leak and people have to be evacuated because of asbestos.
    We’re told there isn’t enough money for our student groups to get funded properly but we have 823 Million Dollars going places within the university that will not get announced.
    The dream of attending BU is moving farther and farther away for prospective and current students while the administration courts people to donate and pay full tuition. I love this school, but I hate what it’s becoming.

    • Cuestam on 03.30.2015 at 11:42 am

      The $823 Million dollars is going toward our endowment, which is an investment portfolio that churns out cash flows for use by the entire university. Although not direct, this money will help the institution to grow at the pace of schools like Harvard and MIT.

      Yes, no school is perfect. This university will raise prices because it can and because it will make more money. Its simply supply and demand. Hopefully the amount of financial aid will raise proportionality.

      On the other hand college in the US is becoming something to keep the upper-middle and upperclass in their socioeconomic status and I don’t think thats right. See this report by non other than the Wall Street Journal:


  • SMG Alum on 03.30.2015 at 11:28 am

    As someone who holds an SMG MBA, I appreciate the magnitude of the $50 million gift and I take nothing away from Mr. Questrom’s achievements, but it does not affect me at all.
    I’m still left with burdensome student loan payments, which leave me unable to make donations to the school.
    How about making a promise that “If you get into our MBA program, we will have a Zero Student Loan policy. We will use grants and scholarships to get you through.” That would drive applications, which would improve your acceptance rate, and attract applicants who want to go into the diverse fields mentioned here. I know that’s a crazy ideas, but other schools have done it. See here: https://nobarriers.uchicago.edu/
    And, really, does the world need more MBAs?

    • SMG Alum (2) on 03.30.2015 at 12:22 pm

      Presumably one would do the calculation if it is financially sensible to get an MBA before attending school for one. If the math works 80k is unpleasant but shouldn’t be a problem.

    • Old School on 03.30.2015 at 12:28 pm

      The MBA Program continues to grow year over year and climb the rankings, so I don’t think it really needs something so radical.

  • km on 03.30.2015 at 11:28 am

    As a BU Alum with deep retail experience, I was thrilled to see the Questroms today. I applaud their generosity, sincerity, wit and wisdom. Great speech promoting mentoring and giving back. Extremely inspiring. Happy Questrom Day!!!

  • GSM 2000 on 03.30.2015 at 11:28 am

    Thank You to the Questrom’s for their extremely generous gift and providing the resources for the Questrom School of Management to become an even better institution in the future.

  • Anonymous Alumni on 03.30.2015 at 11:58 am

    Before the status of the current $823 million and the remainder of the money needed to reach the $1 billion goal is criticized, I’d highly recommend you swing by the fundraising office or check out their plan. You’d be surprised at just how much of your time at BU has been funded by generous alumni donations like this one. That plan will help target the “lesser” funded (although that term is only used in the sense that lesser equates to less media buzz) programs that may not appear to get as much love on the surface.

    Congrats BU – will be hard to get rid of SMG in the vernacular, but a very impressive step in the right direction.

  • DB on 03.30.2015 at 12:22 pm

    Congratulations to BU and the newly named Questrom School of Management for this wonderful gift. It’s great that Allen and Kelli Questrom have seen fit to make an investment of this magnitude in the School. It will benefit many and also set an example for others.

  • SMG2000 on 03.30.2015 at 12:27 pm

    Thank you Allen & Kelli Questrom for their extremely generous gift to SMG. While, I’m sad that the School of Management has been renamed the Questrom School of Business (SMG will always be in my heart), but the explanations provided makes sense.

  • Jay on 03.30.2015 at 12:54 pm

    Thank you to the Questroms.

    Before SMG was SMG it was CBA. Before CAS was CAS it was CLA. Before COM was COM it was SPC. My guess is that getting rid of SMG in the vernacular will not be a problem.

  • Sarah on 03.30.2015 at 2:32 pm

    I received my MBA from GSM in 1980, before the current building was built (I was a part time evening student). Our classes were held in the basement of the CAS — the facilities were worse than the rooms enjoyed by the CAS. I was excited many years later to see that SMG had a facility that would make them competitive with the best business schools, and the rankings and competitiveness have improved over the years to demonstrate the improvements in the program. I was a liberal arts undergrad and grateful for that education (at an Ivy league school) but value my experience at GSM even more. I have contributed more generously to BU over the years than my undergraduate school. Congratulations to the Questroms for paying it forward. And by the way, the endowment and other gifts are what support the financial aid packages that a significant number of students benefit from across all of the schools at BU.

  • Questrom Senior on 03.30.2015 at 2:56 pm

    Thank you SO much for your gift to our School! I hope to do the same someday.

  • VW on 03.30.2015 at 3:22 pm

    Many thanks to the Questroms for their enormous gift and transformation of the retail industry.

  • BU MBA on 03.30.2015 at 4:06 pm

    Thank You!

  • Questrom freshie on 03.30.2015 at 9:54 pm

    Thank you so much for you donation
    I hope i can do the same to make my school proud of me someday!

  • eng on 03.30.2015 at 10:00 pm

    Although a school would be reckless to turn down this sort of donation, it does have some amount of say/wiggle room as to how exactly the gift is allocated. After all there is an administration that runs the school and solicits these donations. I commiserate a bit with the CAS student in that no where in the article did it talk about using the new funding to make the school more affordable, especially when its such a hot topic.It doesn’t have to be a large part of the donation, but it would be nice to see a small part of the donation go to those efforts because it would show the students that BU does really care about the students being to afford the school. The gesture would have been nice.

  • Anon on 03.31.2015 at 6:00 am

    I completely agree with CAS students comments. But I would include an additional alternative for spreading the wealth. If one were to give, say, a million to SED, that would be nice. It’s unlikely that SED will ever produce teachers who have 50 million to give, but those teachers, amongst many other things, are part of making it possible that kids grow up ready for SMG, CAS, ENG, or SED in the first place. In addition, SMG has a huge international population, students from wealthy families who can afford tuition and who will likely return home. SED students become part of the fabric of America. Teachers make due with 40k. Watch what they can do with a million! President Brown — remember that one BU?

  • Some remember on 04.02.2015 at 7:31 am

    No mention of Rafik B. Hariri and his contributions?? Let us not forget.

  • Anonymous on 04.02.2015 at 9:43 am

    If I ever had $50mil to give to a college, I would give it in the form of scholarships.

    You could create a fund, and let’s say you gain 1% on that funding yearly. That’s $500k in scholarships every year! You could give 250 $2000 scholarships every year, and keep that going forever as long as you gain the initial 1% on the investment.

  • AQ (NOT Allen Questrom) on 04.02.2015 at 12:32 pm

    If he donated $50M to the school, fine and dandy. But I’m irked that the name of my school has been wiped out. I’m not Questrom ’82, I’m SMG ’82 and that will always be the case.

  • Anonymous alumn on 04.07.2015 at 6:13 pm

    I understand that this is a lot if money for the school and can do a lot of good things. Still- there are a bunch of things that don’t sound and look right. Let’s start with the photo: couldn’t somebody have told Miss Q that it’s not 1983 any longer and that people have negative reactions to dead animals’ fur around the neck of a lady? I personally don’t care and think that a lot of animal rights activists blow these things out of proportion – but this is poor marketing and just a matter of time before this could potentially blow up on social media.

    Then: we’re really changing from “management” to “business” ? And we are having the school named after 20th century retail business instead of looking into the future with all it’s disruptions and potential?

    I personally find this difficult and all a bit tacky.

    • AnonAnon on 04.09.2015 at 10:54 am

      I love how the first reaction is not a THANK YOU but a critique of a woman. You are right its not 1983, so why not put your comments in a sexist time machine and send them back to 1950.

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