Officials at the University of California, Berkeley, are hoping a $113 million donation from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation will help them fend off some pesky poachers -- elite private schools eager to cherry-pick campus talent with juicy offers.
The gift, set up to draw matching donations, is intended to create 100 new endowed chairs on campus, a crucial tool in getting star professors to stay put.
"It's a really important step forward for us," said UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau.
The gift, which was being announced Monday, is the largest in campus history and comes at a time when static state support has left Berkeley struggling to keep up with wealthy private rivals backed by fast-growing endowments.
Berkeley had an endowment of $2.5 billion as of the 2006 fiscal year; Harvard's current endowment is about $35 billion.
Between 2000 and 2006, 236 Berkeley professors got outside job offers, mostly from elite private schools. The campus was able to keep 162, but only through extraordinary efforts that can't be sustained long-term, Birgeneau said. And that still meant 30 percent slipped away.
Being able to offer a valued faculty member the prestige and research funding of an endowed chair is a strong bargaining chip, said Mark Richards, Berkeley professor of earth and planetary science and executive dean of the College of Letters and Science.
"This is really an amazing gift because it goes right to the core of the financial challenge that the university faces as a public university effectively competing with elite private institutions," Richards said.
The foundation, created by the late William Hewlett, co-founder of the Hewlett-Packard Co., will donate the $110 million over the next seven years and an additional $3 million to support management of the funds. Campus officials will work to get the grants matched dollar-for-dollar to ultimately establish 100 chairs.
Income from the endowments is expected to total about $100,000 a year, with money going to the faculty member's research, graduate student support and to support faculty salaries of the chair-holder and others.
The funding will be distributed across campus and, once matched, would represent an almost 50 percent increase in Berkeley's current $468 million in endowed chair funding.