Back Home From the Cold: How Deep Roots Shaped a $25 Million Gift to USF

Leslie "Les" Muma and his wife Pam returned to Florida after Muma handed over the reins of his financial services technology firm, Fiserv. Both Muma and Pam attended the University of South Florida, and have been instrumental in several fundraising campaigns at the university, so their recent $25 million gift to the USF Tampa School of Business is no surprise.

What's more, the Mumas have deep ties to Florida. Les Muma started his business career in Tampa before a merger led him north to chilly Wisconsin.

The Mumas have given at least $6 million to support a joint effort between Tampa General Hospital and USF Health in neonatal care. Among other things, the gift established the Leslie and Pamela Muma Endowed Chair in Neonatology at USF.

Before returning to Florida, the Mumas lived in Wisconsin for many years as Muma developed his company. There, the Mumas were drawn into local philanthropy. Outfits such as the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Milwaukee Foundation and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum have received support from the couple. The Mumas also forged a relationship with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and funded scholarships at the school. 

This is a good example of proximity playing an important role in philanthropy. As the Mumas got increasingly involved in their new community, they felt more compelled to give in that region, even to a university they didn't attend.

We see that all the time—yes, alumni loyalty matters, but wealthy locals are also interested in meeting needs in their areas. Alums are all the more likely to move on and give elsewhere if they never hear from their alma maters. 

That was the case here. As Muma told the Tampa Bay Times: "I got involved up there because USF had never reached out to me."

Okay, now let's just pause for a moment to suggest that USF's prospecting and cultivation operation wasn't what it could have been, given that Les Muma spent over twenty years building up Fiserv into a Fortune 500 company through a series of high-profile acquisitions. Kind of hard to miss this guy, you would think. I mean, how many USF grads end up running Fortune 500 companies? 

But whatever. In fact, Muma may just have forgotten all those calls from USF that went to voicemail. And "better late than never" is the point here, in any case. 

An acquaintance from USF School of Business did reach out to the Mumas in the 1990s, renewing ties with the couple in advance of their return to the state, and their ties to the schooland Tampa generallygrew quickly once they were back in Florida. 

Muma chaired USF's "Unstoppable" fundraising campaign, launched in 2009, and raised more than $600 million. Muma is a board member of the USF Foundation, where he currently chairs its development committee. 

Pam meanwhile helped found the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy, chairs the board of directors of the Tampa General Hospital Foundation and has been a longtime supporter of Junior Achievement in Tampa Bay. The couple has also given $3 million to help build the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center on campus. The Mumas have given $41.2 million to USF, making them the most generous individual donors in the university's history. Quite the homecoming.

The $25 million gift to USF College of Business will be used to endow the school, which will be renamed the Muma College of Business. The funds will also be used to add new courses and possibly endow chairs to court new faculty. The Mumas also run a small family foundation called the Pamela and Leslie Muma Family Foundation, which gives largely in Florida and to a lesser extent, Wisconsin.