Allen Schmidthorst, and his wife, Carol, establishing the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business.

A gift of $15 million by Allen and Carol Schmidthorst will support academic programming and establish the Allen W. and Carol M. Schmidthorst College of Business at Bowling Green State University.

It is the single largest academic gift in the history of the school. It was announced on Friday via streaming services.

“It is an absolute honor to name Bowling Green State University’s business college for Al and Carol Schmidthorst in recognition of their extraordinary impact,” said BGSU President Rodney Rogers. “Business education has always been a hallmark of the university, and Al and Carol’s philanthropic support elevates our international business education reputation.”

The gift was called transformational and Rogers considered it to be a potential catalyst for donations from other sources.

“In the philanthropy world, significant gifts lead to other significant gifts as well,” Rogers said in a follow-up interview. “This is the largest single donation to an academic unit in our history. It also demonstrates the importance of investing in the academic heart of the institution.

“I think people will take inspiration from that. It allows the president, and the deans and the provost to begin to have more conversations with people about how a gift like this helps transform and elevate an academic program.”

The naming of the college was unanimously approved at a special board of trustees meeting prior to the public announcement on Friday.

It will be the first named college at BGSU.

“This gift will allow the college to expand programming for students from a variety of majors from across the university,” Rogers said.

The gift will be used to provide endowed and current-use resources to educate and directly empower current and future students.

“Named colleges typically have an underlying endowment that allows the college to have, in perpetuity, it allows the college to have a base funding level,” Rogers said.

“Therefore they have the foundational funding to be able to work and evolve the quality of the program, to attract world class faculty, to provide scholarships and reward students for their work and for their success, as well as to provide some flexibility to develop new programs. Without that underlying endowment it’s sometimes a little bit more challenging to achieve.”

The gift will be used to:

• Support the academic programming in the Schmidthorst College of Business, enhancing current programs and advancing new programs.

• Fund scholarships and fellowships for undergraduate and graduate students seeking a business degree, and the retention of students demonstrating a high financial need.

• Provide endowment for professorships and academic program leaders, supporting recruitment and retention efforts to attract faculty in key disciplines and increase national recognition for BGSU’s business education programs.

BGSU’s business school is accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, a recognition it has held since 1954, and offers 14 undergraduate business specializations and several graduate degree programs.

The announcement of the gift took place in the new Robert W. and Patricia A. Maurer Center, which will be home to the Schmidthorst College of Business. The Maurer Center is expected to have an official opening at the beginning of the fall semester.

The Maurer Center connects the iconic Hanna Hall with a 50,000-square-foot addition in the heart of the BGSU campus.

“This is a truly historic moment for business education at BGSU,” Rogers said. “The Schmidthorst gift allows us to fully leverage this magnificent facility, made possible through the generosity of Bob and Pat Maurer, and other significant donors. BGSU is committed to supporting each student in their business pursuits.”

Ohio native Allen Schmidthorst is an entrepreneur with investments in real estate, the hotel industry and more than 15 McDonald’s franchises in Ohio.

He grew up working on the family farm in the Cincinnati area and attended BGSU in the mid-1950s before starting his business career. He and his wife, Carol, own AWS Properties, a business that provides comprehensive services for office, retail and leisure properties.

They are longtime residents of Lima.

“I just wanted to say how much I admired the Schmidthorsts,” Rogers said. “You know, Al never graduated from Bowling Green. He came to Bowling Green as a student and he had to drop out, because he didn’t have the resources to continue, but here we are 50 or 60 years later and his love for this institution endured and this gift will certainly help us meet the needs for students who are the future Al Schmidthorsts, who didn’t have the money to come to Bowling Green.

“This provides scholarships to our students and it will give the opportunity to achieve that college degree. I just so admire their willingness to invest and pay it forward.”

The Schmidthorst name can be seen on the Schmidthorst Pavilion that is part of the Stroh Center, located on East Wooster Street. It includes the Schmidthorst Heritage Hall featuring the Cochran Cunningham Athletic Archives, both located in the Stroh Center. They have also supported the WBGU-TV Public Broadcasting Fund and numerous other funds and scholarships at the university.

“The decision was really easy to do and I hope it makes a huge difference in the future years and it was really nice to let me be a part of it,” Al Schmidthorst said.

Allen Schmidthorst received an honorary doctorate of business administration from BGSU in 2017.

The gift also pushes the BGSU Changing Lives for the World campaign beyond its goal of raising $200 million in private funds by the end of 2020.