Rendering of new addition to the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences

Rendering of new addition to the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences

Last month, the University of Montana announced it was receiving $10 million from the Dennis and Phyllis Washington Foundation to augment programs in education.

The contract outlines the parameters of the gift, including the family's exclusive naming right to the outside of education buildings in perpetuity.

"The university agrees that the only name to appear on the outside of the buildings at the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education and Human Sciences buildings into perpetuity will be the (sic) associated with the Washington Family," reads the agreement. "Other donor's names will be permitted only inside the building with consultation of a member of the Washington Family."

The gift will build an addition to the college and makes the foundation and Washington family the largest donors in UM history with $48.5 million given to date, according to earlier information provided by the UM Foundation.

The largest single gift to UM came last year, a $24 million donation from the W.A. Franke family for the College of Forestry and Conservation and the Global Leadership Initiative.

Dean Roberta Evans said she doesn't believe the exclusion in the contract with the Washington Foundation will preclude other large gifts from future generations of donors. She also said references in the agreement to multiple buildings are a typo; the new construction will be an addition to the current building, she said, not a separate structure.

Plus, the campus has some old buildings, and while they may not be "nonfunctional," they have "serious issues," Evans said. So once UM is able to replace them, they'll offer other naming opportunities.

"The dominant growth area is really going to be where things ultimately need to be razed, and in fact, probably sooner rather than later," Evans said.

The UM Foundation has recommendations for naming opportunities, such as for a college, department or program. Those include endowments for schools and colleges "able to support the annual operating budget, excluding salaries," according to the most recent guidelines.

One of the criteria for a family naming a building is that the gift be a minimum 50 percent of the project cost, according to a policy from 2015; an updated policy is under legal review. The policy notes "the name will remain on the building or outdoor area for the life of the building or area."

UM Foundation President and CEO Cindy Williams agreed the contract doesn't intend to preclude other names on other buildings affiliated with the College of Education and Human Sciences, such as McGill Hall. She agreed the references to multiple buildings are a typo, but she would need to consider whether they are ones that need correcting.

Williams also said donors who want to make significant gifts to UM are interested in naming for the future life of a facility, and she believes they'll continue to find reasons to support the university.

"I'm confident that for future generations of donors or future generations of students, there will always be opportunities to invest in the excellence of the university," Williams said.

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