UNI College of Business receives largest gift in university history

By: - October 20, 2023 3:32 pm

The University of Northern Iowa received $25 million for its business college, the largest gift in the university's history. (Photo by Brooklyn Draisey/Iowa Capital Dispatch)

The University of Northern Iowa will use a $25 million gift, the largest in the university’s history, to fund initiatives and support students as they study in the newly named David W. Wilson College of Business.

UNI President Mark Nook on Friday announced the gift, given by Wilson Automotive Group owner and CEO David Wilson, and unveiled the college of business’s new name. It is the first college in the university to be named for a person.

“This is a historic moment for our campus. The Wilson College of Business will truly transform business education at UNI, taking our already premier business programs to new heights,” Nook said in a news release. “We’re honored that UNI’s first named college will stand as a testament to David’s belief in the power of education and will provide resources for the university to foster innovation for the future.”


Wilson, who graduated from UNI in 1970 with a degree in religion and philosophy and a minor in business, said he hopes this gift will present itself as a philosophical defense of capitalism. Ethical capitalism needs all the help it can get these days, he said, as businesses are being blamed for every problem in global economics.

His contribution was given to UNI’s Our Tomorrow fundraising campaign as a challenge gift with the goal of generating more support for ethics-based education at the university. The campaign has reached $243 million of its $250 million goal.

“It’s our hope this contribution will foster instruction that reveals the importance of maintaining ethical principles in the corporate environment at all levels, from daily operations to executive decisions, and will promote tax tactful and tactical rational thinking required to defend successful companies from ideological attacks,” Wilson said at the announcement.

The gift will be used to establish the Wilson Endowment for Integrity and Excellence to further ethics education in the college of business and across campus in partnership with the Department of Philosophy and Religion, College of Business Dean Leslie Wilson said.

It also established a scholarship for students coming to UNI from Tama County, where David Wilson grew up. One eligible student each year will receive a renewing scholarship that will fill the monetary gap left in tuition, room and board payments after other scholarships have been applied.

With these funds, the business college will be able to continue its work in preparing students for an ever-changing business world while leaving space for innovation, such as incorporating AI into classrooms and offices.

“Our students are the leaders of tomorrow,” Leslie Wilson said. “We’re looking at students today who are future CEOs, who are future business owners, who are individuals who may be in the health care profession, or social work, or teachers, that every day have the opportunity to do what is right but to do that they need the critical thinking skills. They need the ethical reasoning that allows them to do that and allows them to build upon and live the values that Iowa is known to have.”


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Brooklyn Draisey
Brooklyn Draisey

Brooklyn Draisey is a Report for America corps member covering higher education. She previously worked for the Quad-City Times and The Gazette covering topics ranging from business to culture.