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Towson University gets $5.3 million donation, largest alumnus gift in college’s history

A Towson University alumnus this month gave a hefty $5.3 million donation to the school, intended to be used for athletics, the College of Health Professions, the College of Business & Economics and programming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

The funding, which school officials say is the largest single donation from an alum in the institution’s 154 years, makes up nearly half of the university’s total donations in fiscal 2020, when it surpassed its fundraising goal by more than $400,000 to raise $12.4 million — the first time the University System of Maryland school raised more than $10 million annually for three consecutive years.

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The money was gifted by Fran Soistman Jr., a 1979 Towson University graduate who went on to found Healthcare Management & Transformation Advisory Services and to serve in several other health care leadership roles, including as CVS Health-Aetna’s executive vice president and president of government services, before retiring in 2019.

Part of Soistman’s gift will fully endow several scholarships in the College of Business & Economics, where he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance.

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Soistman, an avid supporter of Towson men’s basketball, football and lacrosse teams, is putting part of his donation toward building a new Athletic Academic Achievement Center for college athletes in the field house at Johnny Unitas Stadium that will accommodate over 520 athletes and support onsite technology for projects, tutoring and academic advising, according to the university.

The current Athletic Academic Achievement Center is in Linthicum Hall.

Soistman “has a great understanding of our vision and mission,” said Tim Leonard, Towson’s athletic director, in a statement.

“He believes in that mission and wants to ensure that our student-athletes continue to succeed in the classroom, the community and in competition,” Leonard said.

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Another portion of Soistman’s donation will help fund a $173-million building spanning 229,000 square feet for the College of Health Professions, which includes nursing, speech-language pathology, occupational therapy, kinesiology and gerontology programs.

Students in the College of Health Professions “have been scattered over a 2-mile radius for decades,” Soisman said in a statement. Health programs are offered in several buildings across campus, including Burdick, Van Bokkelen and Linthicum halls.

“It’s important that we bring them all under one roof,” Soisman said.

Soistman also directed a portion of his funds toward the school’s Office of Inclusion & Institutional Equity.

Towson this year released its first strategic five-year plan to build a more diverse campus. Initiatives in that plan include hiring a more diverse pool of faculty members through “cluster hiring policies” targeting those in underrepresented groups, and increasing the number of faculty members “from historically underrepresented groups” by 2025; requiring students, faculty and staff to take mandatory bias training; increasing the number of diverse participants in mentorship and leadership programs and encouraging applicants from underrepresented groups to apply for faculty scholarships related to diversity, equity and inclusion; and creating a hub to track and assess those efforts.

Towson President Kim Schatzel, who lists diversity efforts as a presidential priority, said in a statement that the college’s goal is for “our students to thrive inclusively, and when they leave campus, [that they] are prepared to lead and place diversity and inclusion as priorities in their personal and professional lives.”

School officials did not say exactly how the funds would be divvied among the school programs. Brian DeFilippis, vice president for university advancement, said Soistman’s donation will help the university continue to assist students “navigate the path to lifelong success.”

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