Earlier this year, tech titan Greg Gianforte pledged $8 million to Montana State University. Sounds simple enough, right? Not so fast.
Local advocacy groups complained that Gianforte was a supporter of various conservative groups including Focus on the Family and the Family Research Council. Oh, and Gianforte was simultaneously running for the governorship of Montana.
As it turned out, Gianforte lost to incumbent Democrat Steve Bullock in November.
Such a loss can trigger a degree of soul searching. Perhaps Gianforte, who attended Hoboken, New Jersey's Stevens Institute of Technology, became nostalgic for those balmy Northeast winters. Or maybe he simply wanted his next big gift to be drama-free.
Either way, he turned his attention back to the Garden State in the form of a recent $10 million donation to fund a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary educational and research facility at Stevens.
Gianforte's ties to the school run deep. As noted in our donor profile, Gianforte earned his B.E. in Electrical Engineering and M.S. in Computer Science from Stevens in 1983. After graduation, he was elected as a young alumni trustee to the board of trustees. He has also been a member of the Edwin A. Stevens Society, the leadership giving society at Stevens, every year since graduation.
Oh, and I did I mention that back 2012 his Gianforte Family Foundation donated $10 million to the university for the very same project?
The new 89,950 square-foot, two-building facility, which will be completed in 2019, provides academic space and research laboratories to advance research and education in areas of significant societal need, such as healthcare and medicine, sustainable energy, financial systems defense and security, and STEM education.
The combined $20 million Gianforte gifts represent the largest gift to a single project in university history, administrators said.
One last thought: Gianforte and his wife, Susan, live in Bozeman, Montana, and have four children. They seem pretty happy out there. Gianforte clearly has affection for his alma mater, but as a wildly successful entrepreneur, he can't be drawn to New Jersey's high-tax business climate, precarious financial state, and congested highways.
All that being said, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie's term expires in January 2018.
Just throwing it out there.