Thanks a Million: Immigrant Gratitude and the Making of a Big Campus Gift

I've written before about foreign-born alumni and their philanthropy in the higher education space. The number of foreign-born students has soared in recent decades, with around 900,000 foreign students studying on U.S. campuses in 2014. Many of these folks stay in the states after graduation, and some amass quite a bit of wealth. They are donor prospects that campus development offices would be well advised to watch closely and better understand. 

In one case I wrote about, an Indian UCLA alumnus whose foundation has a track record of supporting international students, gave big to construct a semiconductor lab at UCLA. A lot of higher education giving is driven by gratitude, and for immigrants to the United States, experiences studying at an American university can leave a lasting impression.

Related: Why Foreign-Born Alumni Will be a Growing Gold Mine for Colleges 

Another recent case involves a $9 million gift from the family of alumnus Eva Grove to Hunter College of the City University of New York. The gift is from the Grove family honors Eva Grove's 80th birthday. To break down the gift, $4 million will establish the Eva Kastan Grove Scholars Program at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College and "support a variety of student activities and programs in public policy, social justice, and human rights." The other $5 million, meanwhile, will fund the Eva Kastan Grove Scholarship and Internship Endowment Fund, which will "primarily benefit students who demonstrate a commitment to public service and are immigrants or the children of immigrants, are undocumented or otherwise ineligible for other sources of support, and/or are underrepresented in their fields."

Grove graduated from Hunter in 1958 with a degree in pre-social work and is the wife of Andrew Grove, former chairman of Intel. The couple's Grove Foundation has given away more than $10 million annually of late. A major interest of the foundation is supporting Parkinson's research, driven by Andrew Grove's own struggle with the disease. The foundation, though, has also supported immigrants and refugees, having recently supported outfits such as Grantmakers Concerned with Immigrants and Refugees, National Immigration Law Center, and Immigrant Legal Resource Center, which recently received a $460,000 grant.

What has driven the Grove family's past commitment to immigrants? And what's behind their support of immigrants in their recent $9 million gift to Hunter? Well, the kinds of deeply personal motivations we talk about all the time at Inside Philanthropy. 

Eva Grove, born in Vienna, fled the Nazis with her family when she was just three. She was raised in Bolivia, and at 18, arrived in New York and attended Hunter. She also spent many hours at Roosevelt House. Andrew Grove is also an immigrant, having survived both the Nazi occupation of Hungary, and later, the Hungarian Revolution of 1956.

The couple met in college (Andrew Grove attended City College, also part of the City University of New York) and married soon after.

Given the family's background and incredible story of survival, it's no surprise that the Groves' first experiences in the states would leave a lasting impression. This is particularly true of Eva on a milestone birthday. As she says of her alma mater, "Hunter opened the doors to America for me.”