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Tailoring a Gift to Provide for the People and Programs Closest to You

Photo of Jerome Chazen '50BUS

The year was 1990. Four decades had passed since Jerry Chazen graduated from Columbia Business School, and he never did spend much time looking back. He was busy instead charting a unique path through the worlds of retail and fashion, one that would eventually lead to his co-founding and building the largest fashion brand in the world, Liz Claiborne.

The phone rang. Meyer Feldberg had recently been appointed dean of the Business School, and he was calling Chazen for two reasons—first, to tell him that he thought the School had done a lousy job of staying close to alumni and, second, to invite him to join the School's new advisory board.

“My gifts to Columbia over the past 25 years have brought me closer to my personal goals than I had ever been before.”

"The board was made up mostly of people in the world of finance," Chazen recalls. "That's the direction the School had taken, essentially turning out employees for the investment banks and big consulting firms." But Chazen and Feldberg shared a vision for change, and Chazen agreed to join the board.

"When I was a student at Columbia shortly after World War II, the focus was solely on the United States," Chazen says. "We were taught that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world, and we have the raw materials, the markets, everything we need to do great business."

Yet his later experience would teach him to take a broader view. "You simply cannot do business today without thinking about the rest of the world," he says. "No student should leave Columbia without knowing how important the global influences are."

Feldberg and Chazen spoke about creating an institute focused on international business. Chazen believed so strongly in the idea that he made a gift of $10 million to get it off the ground. At the time, this was the largest gift in the School's history, and it established what is today the Jerome A. Chazen Institute for Global Business.

A Second Gift to Celebrate 25 Years

Chazen takes pride in the popularity of the Institute's programs and that a global focus has become part of the Business School's DNA. In 2016, to mark the Institute's 25th anniversary, he made another generous gift of $10 million, aimed at greatly expanding the Institute's offerings to students.

This gift was seeded several years ago when Chazen established a charitable remainder unitrust (CRUT) that he funded with a sizeable portion of his highly appreciated Liz Claiborne stock. The trust would make payments to his children for seven years with half of the remainder going to Columbia and half to other charities.

The investment was so successful, in fact, that after all the payments, its final value was nearly the same as when it was established. This enabled Chazen to make a significant gift to the Chazen Institute as well as a $1.7 million gift to Columbia University Medical Center.

Investing Alongside the Endowment

The success of Chazen's CRUT had a lot to do with how it was invested, which, in turn, had a lot to do with Chazen himself. Back when he served on Columbia's Board of Trustees, Chazen worked on the committee that oversaw the group responsible for investing the endowment.

"Harvard had begun offering donors an opportunity to invest alongside the university endowment," he recalls. "The donor gets access to exceptional financial management, while the university receives the balance of the trust portfolio as a gift when the term is up."

Chazen pushed for Columbia to offer something similar, which the University did in late 2007. When the time was right, he was able to structure his CRUT this way—increasing the impact of his gift.

A Deeper Relationship

Chazen's gifts are remarkable not only for their size, but for his commitment to accomplishing philanthropic objectives that mean the most to him while also achieving his long-term financial goals for his family. He notes, too, that he is a big believer in endowing scholarships, and part of his most recent gift will support a scholarship at Columbia Business School.

"As my relationship with Columbia has deepened, I've come to care more and to want to do more," he says. "If you're considering a gift, think of what you care most about, then look for how you can make a difference.

 

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