Guess Who Just Gave $17 Million to the University of Rochester

Whoomp, there it is: the biggest single gift in the Wegmans Family Charitable Foundation’s recent history. When a foundation whose usual annual giving hovers right around $11 million makes waves with a single $17 million give, heads turn. So it was this week when the Wegmans Family Charitable Foundation (WFCF) announced their $17 million gift to the University of Rochester.

WFCF has a relationship with the University of Rochester. The WFCF corporate headquarters is located in the city, and the university fits in nicely with the foundation's giving priorities: It likes to fund close to home, it likes community projects and initiatives like the Rochester Philharmonic and the Veterans Outreach Center, and it generally don’t like to make headlines. Most of the gifts the foundation makes are a few thousand dollars—though it occasionally gives sums over a million—and they’re usually unspecified. Funds are to cover “general operation expenses” or to continue “the work done by the organization.” That track record only adds to the uniqueness of their latest gift.

This one is big, and it’s earmarked. Of course, as the size of a charitable gift grows, the charitable foundation’s involvement often grows likewise. It’s easy for a foundation to hand out $1,500 and walk away; not so easy, perhaps, when that gift is in the millions. This time, WFCF’s gift is broken into two pieces: $10 million will be a lead gift to the university’s Institute for Data Science, for which the university is hoping to raise $100 million overall. The other $7 million will go toward construction of Golisano Children’s Hospital on the University of Rochester Medical Center campus. The new building will bear the Wegman name.

Though this gift is unprecedented in size, it’s not completely surprising that it’s going to the University of Rochester. Like we said, the foundation has a relationship with the university, and with its medical center. WFCF’s records show a 2011 gift of $1.1 million to the University of Rochester—for an unspecified purpose—one of the foundation’s few gifts that broke $1 million. In 2010 and 2012, smaller amounts—$71,000 and $210,000, respectively—went to the University of Rochester Medical Center. Clearly, this sizable gift only serves to further their positive relationship.