A ‘Transformative Gift’: business honors alumnus gives back with 20 million donation to program

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Mary Beth Canfield and Phillip Canfield receive a ceremony to commemorate a $20 million donation made towards the Business Honors Program and the renaming of the program to the Canfield Business Honors Program. The program helps students such as finance and mathematics senior, Pheobe Lin, graduate debt-free.

Photo Credit: Eddie Gaspar

More than 400 people attended a ceremony at the McCombs School of Business on Friday afternoon to recognize a $20 million donation from Philip Canfield, Business Honors Program alumnus, and his wife Mary Beth Canfield, to the program. The program will be renamed the Canfield Business Honors Program in recognition of the multimillion dollar donation.

“Phil and Mary Beth’s transformative gift will take McCombs’ outstanding Business Honors Program to new heights,” UT President Gregory Fenves said in a press release. “(Phil and Mary Canfield will) provide greater opportunity for business students to come to UT, pursue their dreams and make vital contributions.”

McCombs dean Jay Hartzell said $7 million of the donation will go toward the McCombs Scholars Program for a matching scholarship fund, where the next $7 million donated will be matched by the Canfield’s contribution. $10 million is being set aside for an endowment fund, which will go toward expenses such as marketing and perception surveys for the honors program, Hartzell said. The program will use the remaining $3 million as immediate spending money.

“It takes awhile for the endowment to build up and start to produce returns,” Hartzell said. “We want some immediate cash to try some things like the reputation survey or if we want to offer some immediate scholarships.”

The award ceremony included streamers, a performance from the Longhorn band and a speech from Phoebe Lin, finance and mathematics senior. Lin said she knew the Business Honors Program was serious opportunity when her dad, a University of Oklahoma alumnus, purchased a burnt orange polo after attending an information session during her senior year of high school.

Lin will graduate in May debt-free and employed full-time because of the honors program.

“Coming to the University of Texas as a business honors student is the best decision that I’ve ever made,” Lin said. “I’m always blown away by the dedication that the staff and faculty have towards this program.”

Canfield, who graduated in 1989, said he owes his career to his education from the Business Honors Program and recognizes that students today face more financial challenges to attend UT. 

“I think it cost me $2,000 a year to go here, and even in the late 1980s, (that many) dollars is not that much money … and it’s not (that same amount) today,” Canfield said. “Accessibility and affordability for a public university is essential in the long run.”