Doctor, Author, Donor: Meet the "Rock Star" Behind a Historic Campus Gift

You may have never heard of the name Elaine Marieb, Ph.D., but if you went to medical school, she probably influenced your college experience.

Marieb is a popular educator and textbook author, having published more than 13 anatomy and physiology textbooks. Her books are used at 1,000 institutions of higher education throughout the world. Which maybe helps explain why she could afford to recently make a gift of $10 million to Ft. Myers-based Florida Gulf Coast University.

The gift, which will be allocated across a five-year period, will fund the creation and support of faculty-led clinical health centers on and off campus, faculty development in teaching and research, tuition waivers, student stipends, and to attract and retain faculty. It represents the largest individual gift in the school's history.

Not surprisingly, such a large gift didn't occur in a vacuum. (Higher ed gifts rarely do. Although there are a few exceptions.) In 2012, Marieb Hall was named in her honor after she made a $5 million gift to the university.

In fact, her recent donation fits a pattern that you'll see again and again in the higher ed space—small gifts tend to lead up to much larger gifts. As I noted in the aftermath of a huge Hellen Diller Foundation donation to the University of California, San Francisco back in January:

That's how these massive campus gifts nearly always go; they are preceded by years of smaller gifts. Which is why, when we see a donor giving a school an eight-figure gift, we often speculate that an even bigger donation may eventually lie down the line...If you want to know where future giving will go, start by looking at past giving.  

As far as Dr. Marieb's past is concerned, her philanthropic work dates back over two decades. In 1994, she received the Benefactor Award from the National Council for Resource Development, American Association of Community Colleges, which recognized her ongoing sponsorship of student scholarships, faculty teaching awards, and other academic contributions to Holyoke Community College.

And as for her reputation across the higher ed space? I'll let Mitchell Cordova, a FGCU Dean, have the last word. "If Bill Gates was to name a college of computer science," he said, "this is analogous to that. She is absolutely a rock star in undergraduate anatomy and physiology textbook writing."