$50 Million Gift Creates The Knauss School of Business

Saturday, December 4, 2021 post has video

“In honor of their remarkable gift, we now, today, in this moment and forever more, announce that the business school at this university will be known as the Knauss School of Business,” President James T. Harris III said, as a billboard-sized image of the new school logo premiered in public for the first time. He went on to explain that the new building in which the Knauss School of Business will be housed will be known as the Knauss Center for Business Education.

A confetti cannon added to the excitement before Ellie Knauss spoke to the crowd. “Don and I have always viewed philanthropy as the gift of sharing your blessings. And how we wanted to share those blessings has always been very obvious with us. It’s education,” she said. “Education is the great equalizer. If you have a desire to learn, we want to be there behind you to make sure you have every opportunity to do that, no matter where you’re from and what you want to do.”

She went on to note that she and her husband — whose son, Mickey ’11 (BAC) graduated from USD — found making such a generous donation to the university a relatively easy decision. “There are so many incredible leaders at this school. We feel that if you put money into something, you have to trust the leadership. And quite simply, we trust the leadership here. We feel that every penny that is put into this school will be multiplied ten times, and that made our decision very easy to choose USD.”

Don Knauss — who was introduced by President Harris as a “true American success story who was born into very humble beginnings” — began his career as a Marine before moving to the corporate world and ultimately serving in senior leadership positions for companies such as Proctor & Gamble and Coca-Cola. He finished his career as chairman of the board and CEO of The Clorox Company.

“One thing I want to mention about Don is his commitment to workplace diversity, equity and inclusion,” Harris said. “This is not something that’s new to Don Knauss. He’s been an advocate for this for more than three decades.” Don was the first Fortune 500 CEO in history to deliver the keynote address at the annual Out and Equal Conference, Harris explained, adding, “Now, there’s an expectation that Fortune 500 CEOs are going to attend and speak at this event.”

Additionally, the Jackie Robinson Foundation awarded Don the annual national ROBIE award for leadership in promoting workforce diversity. “This is a gentleman that is deeply committed to the same work that we’re doing at this university,” Harris said.

Don and Ellie Knauss’s remarks were relatively brief, but the impact of their sincerity was profound. Don agreed with his wife that it was an easy decision to give to USD: “We really believe wholeheartedly in the mission of the school. If you look at the mission statement, the last phrase is, ‘preparing leaders dedicated to ethical conduct and compassionate service.’ And that’s what this is all about.”

He also stressed his firm belief in a free enterprise system. “But we want that system to create wealth on a fair and equitable playing field. We know that talent is everywhere but opportunity is not. We hope this investment is really going to broaden that opportunity,” he said.

Dean Keane thanked the crowd, and concluded, “This is a runway for us to explode out of this COVID pandemic and really take the nation by storm. We’re going to be one of the best business schools in the country, thanks to all of you. And, of course, thanks to Don and Ellie.”

— Julene Snyder

Learn more about the announcement:


Julene Snyder
(619) 260-5985