Name-changing donations

Inova, GMU and Smithfield school receive major gifts

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Print this page by Robert Powell
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CenterStage in Richmond became the Dominion Arts Center
after receiving a pledge of $5.5 million. Photo by Rick DeBerry

Virginia has seen many significant philanthropic gifts in recent years.

One of the biggest was a $50 million donation in 2015 by Dwight Schar and his wife, Martha, towards Inova Health System’s cancer research center. Dwight Schar is the founder of Reston-based homebuilding company NVR Inc.

The Inova Schar Cancer Institute will be based at Inova’s new 117-acre campus in Fairfax County, the former site of ExxonMobil’s corporate center. The gift helped jumpstart a campaign to raise $200 million to recruit top physicians, scientists and clinical investigators to the cancer center, which will focus on personalized treatment.

Even before making the donation, Schar was involved in the cancer center project. He helped negotiate the $180 million acquisition of the campus and its 1.2 million-square-foot former headquarters building.

Inova plans to open that building next year. It will house all of Inova’s existing clinical cancer specialists and treatment facilities along with new cancer research programs.

Schar followed up the gift to Inova with a $10 million pledge last year to George Mason University’s School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs. The school, which has about 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students, is now known as the Schar School of Policy and Government.

GMU also renamed its law school after the late U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia as the result of $30 million in donations.

Scalia, a McLean resident who served 30 years on the Supreme Court, spoke at the dedication of the GMU law school building in Arlington County in 1999. He also was a guest lecturer at the university. Scalia died in February last year during a vacation in Texas.

The $30 million in gifts in support of the law school includes $10 million from the Charles Koch Foundation and $20 million from an anonymous donor.

Corporate philanthropy also is making a difference around the state.

In Richmond, a downtown cultural arts facility, CenterStage, last year was renamed the Dominion Arts Center after energy company Dominion Resources pledged a $5.5 million donation, which will be paid over 15 years. The facility includes the historic Carpenter Theatre, built in 1928 as a movie palace, and parts of a former Thalhimers department store, which now houses small performance venues and an education center.

Smithfield Foods recently an­­nounced a $3 million contribution for new programs at Smithfield High School in Isle of Wight County. The donation will be used to finance a technology lab, a new field house for the school’s Junior ROTC program and a multipurpose building for academic ceremonies and community events. The donation involved no change in names, of course. The school is already named Smithfield.

Virginia Business has conducted an annual survey of major donations by individuals, corporations and foundations since 2010. The following pages include charts showing donations from 2015.

Philanthropy charts:

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