Written by Kylie Fitzpatrick
Phil Canfield drew on his UT business knowledge to become a successful private equity investor. Now, he’s investing in the university that helped launch his career, making a generous multimillion-dollar gift to advance the Business Honors Program at the McCombs School of Business at The University of Texas at Austin.
Canfield, managing director at the private equity firm GTCR in Chicago, and his wife Mary Beth are giving the program $20 million. In their honor, it will be renamed the Canfield Business Honors Program.
“We both believe if you’re helping education and you’re helping people get access to education, that is the single highest leverage and best ROI investment you can make philanthropically,” Canfield said.
A Texas native and 1989 Business Honors graduate, Canfield has been deeply reflective and thoughtful about the decision to make the gift. He says it’s his way of showing gratitude to the university for the substantive education he received.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t been in that program,” Canfield said. “It launched what’s been a really fun and successful investment career, and in many ways, I feel like it’s a dividend back to the school for the investment that the school made in me back then.”
The gift will provide full-tuition scholarships, improve recruitment of the brightest and best students, increase the national reputation of Business Honors and help boost and broaden program offerings and student resources.
“In order to make a gift like this, you have to have confidence in the leadership,” Canfield said. “My conversations with Dean Hartzell give me faith and trust in his vision for the program and his ability to execute. My confidence is very high.”
Canfield says one of his defining moments in deciding to make the gift was when he returned to campus three years ago as a parent of a prospective Business Honors student.
“It made me realize two things,” Canfield said. “First, for as great as I thought the program was when I was here, it’s 100 percent better now. Second, it’s the best undergraduate business education in the country and world, but it’s not broadly recognized at the national level, so part of what I want to do is elevate the status of BHP.”
“Phil and Mary Beth’s transformative gift will take McCombs’ outstanding Business Honors Program to new heights, and they’ll provide greater opportunity for business students to come to UT, pursue their dreams and make vital contributions,” said Gregory L. Fenves, president of the university. “The Canfields’ gift will change the game for the McCombs School of Business. And, for future UT students, it will also be a life-changer.”
“We are thrilled and grateful to the Canfields for their investment in our honors program. Their generosity will allow us to improve what is already an amazing program, and to ensure that we will always provide our students with the education, exposure and community they need to become excellent leaders in business and society,” said Dean Jay Hartzell. “I also firmly believe that this investment will make a material difference — not only in the honors program, but also in the broader community, increasing our national reputation and the impact of our school and university.”
The Canfields’ gift will not only assist UT Business Honors students, it will also leave a lasting legacy for generations to come.
“Mary Beth and I try very hard, in all the organizations and all the communities we’re involved with, to lead by example and do it with kindness and humility,” Canfield said.