Methuen natives Robert J. Manning and Donna Manning donated a $50 million cash gift to the University of Massachusetts — the largest donation of any kind in the university’s history.
The couple, high school sweethearts who later commuted to UMass Lowell, have long been generous supporters to the university. They previously committed more than $11 million to UMass Lowell, where the Manning School of Business bears their name.
Also on the Lowell campus, they have endowed several faculty chairs, sponsored a nursing simulation lab, and established the Robert and Donna Manning Endowed Scholarship Fund. The Manning Prize for Excellence in Teaching is awarded to faculty on all five UMass campuses for high-impact teaching.
Robert Manning received a degree in information systems management from UMass Lowell in 1984. Donna Manning earned a nursing degree in 1985 and a masters in business administration from UMass Lowell in 1991. They each received an honorary doctor of humane letters from UMass Lowell in 2011.
The couple credits their UMass education with giving them the foundation for success.
“Donna and I are at a point in our lives where we want to make a real difference, and this was the best way to do that, because we know what UMass does for students. It transforms lives,” said Robert Manning in a statement. “We firmly believe that UMass is the most important asset in the Commonwealth, and that the greatest thing we can do to support the Commonwealth is to support the UMass campuses and UMass students.”
UMass said the first distribution will be a $15 million endowment to the UMass-Boston nursing program, which will become the Robert and Donna Manning College of Nursing and Health, and will be geared to promoting student diversity and equitable patient care.
The remaining $35 million of the donation will go toward improving access and opportunity at the UMass campuses in Lowell, Amherst, Dartmouth and Worcester. Those plans will be announced in the coming months.
The couple, who now reside in Swampscott, plan to be heavily engaged in the UMass programs their gifts will support.
“The significance of this gift cannot be overstated,” UMass President Marty Meehan said in a statement. “Rob and Donna are two of our own. As first-generation college graduates, they experienced the transformational impact UMass has on students’ lives. Rob and Donna have always led by example in their philanthropy, and this remarkable gift is a call to action to the philanthropic community.”