Gift from Allison and Rick Magnuson ’79 highlights $36 million in support, pioneering ideas.
Building on a rapidly expanding network of alumni, students, and faculty who want to launch business ventures and social enterprises, Dartmouth is establishing a center for entrepreneurship, with a lead gift from Allison and Rick Magnuson ’79, President Phil Hanlon ’77 announced on May 2.
The Magnusons have pledged $20 million toward the creation of the center, part of an overall $40 million investment to infuse entrepreneurship across the Dartmouth campus through endowed funding.
In addition to the Magnusons’ gift, the College has received 16 gifts of $1 million from a group of alumni leaders in technology, venture capital, and private equity—creating the Dartmouth Founders Circle and bringing gifts and commitments for the center to $36 million.
The new center, to be named the Magnuson Family Center for Entrepreneurship at Dartmouth College, will be a dynamic hub for faculty, student, and alumni connected to any department or school at Dartmouth. It will be located in a new, state-of-the-art building on the west end of campus, along with computer science and engineering programs and also near the Tuck School of Business.
Announced as part of The Call to Lead, Dartmouth’s $3 billion campaign, the center’s fundamental mission will be to:
“The entrepreneurial spirit is flourishing throughout the Dartmouth community, as students and alumni make connections, forge brilliant ideas, and transform concepts into exciting ventures,” said President Hanlon. “When we started exploring how we could create an entrepreneurship program in a way that engaged alumni and students, Rick was among the first people we contacted. Over the past four years, he has been one of the most committed supporters and advocates for this campus-wide push.”
Rick Magnuson, founder and executive managing director of GI Partners, a San Francisco-based private equity firm, recalled how he and his classmate John Saer ’79 established a transportation service while they were undergraduates at Dartmouth. The business had its successes and setbacks, he said, but was ultimately a powerful learning experience.
“I want as many Dartmouth students as possible to have the same opportunity that John and I had—and the center for entrepreneurship is going to help students, and faculty, who want to execute on their innovative ideas,” he said. “Through its co-curricular program, the center will offer students the opportunity to learn basic business skills, providing a foundation for success.”
In addition to announcing the gifts from the Magnusons and the members of the Founders Circle, Hanlon introduced the Dartmouth Founders Project, a network of alumni who have pledged to support Dartmouth as their businesses grow.
“I’m pleased to announce that a group of alumni leaders from the startup community—those who are deeply engaged in the process of innovation and of business creation—are committing a percentage of their future success to Dartmouth as part of The Call to Lead,” Hanlon said. “This grassroots effort, known as the Founders Project, has few parallels in higher education.”
The Founders Project is the first program of its kind in the Ivy League, and one of only six nationally. It has grown quickly, with 81 members joining in 10 months.
Hanlon also announced that an anonymous donor has established a prize and competition to honor Jeff Crowe ’78, a leader in the Dartmouth entrepreneurship community. The prize will be awarded annually through a startup competition to be held in Hanover.
In 2013, the College launched a four-year pilot project to expand the Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network (DEN) and founded the DEN Innovation Center—in line with Hanlon’s emphasis on expanding experiential learning opportunities. Jamie Coughlin, DEN’s director and now director of the Magnuson Center, recalled that the Magnusons were among its first supporters.
“Rick and Allison have been with us since the beginning,” Coughlin said. “The pilot was a smashing success. Now, led by Rick and Allison’s generosity, we’re creating permanency within the institution.”
Since its opening, the DEN Innovation Center has incubated more than 100 ventures, awarded more than $400,000 in grants, matched and funded 30 startup internships, and provided 300 hours of one-on-one mentorship.
While the Magnuson Center will be located in the new engineering and computer science building, Coughlin stressed that the center will serve students and faculty in all disciplines—one of the fundamental differentiators for how Dartmouth approaches entrepreneurship.
“Our goal is to reach out to the entire student population, undergraduates and graduate students, all faculty who are developing ideas, and alumni from all backgrounds. Entrepreneurial thinking is for all of our stakeholders, and we look forward to sharing our resources across the institution,” Coughlin said. “It’s all about bringing people together and providing them with the resources to realize their entrepreneurial goals.”
The center will have a 20-member board of advisers, whose charter has been approved by the Dartmouth Board of Trustees. The board will work closely with the center’s management team on strategic direction, providing insights and recommendations.
Magnuson said the center’s mission aligns with one of the campaign’s principal priorities: developing future leaders.
“The center for entrepreneurship will be one more way our students will prepare to be the next generation of leaders,” he said. “They’ll build confidence, resourcefulness, and resilience through having tried, and perhaps having failed, along the way.”