$10 Million Gift to Drexel University Will Support Underrepresented Students and Civic Partnerships

Photo of the Disneys with Drexel students
Ronald W. Disney and his wife Kathleen with Drexel students and Brian Ellis, PhD, executive director of the Goodwin College of Professional Studies, who created LeBow BRIDGE.

A $10 million pledge from Drexel University alumnus Ronald W. Disney and his wife Kathleen will help promote diversity, equity and inclusion efforts at Drexel by providing scholarship funds and program support for students from underrepresented backgrounds, primarily at the University’s Bennett S. LeBow College of Business.

The gift was made as a bequest and will also provide financial support to a mentoring program for public school students in West Philadelphia; research on hunger and poverty in the Philadelphia region; and mental health and well-being counseling and programming for Drexel students. The portion of the pledge designated to LeBow College is the second largest gift made to the business school by an individual.

“I am profoundly grateful to Ron and Kathy Disney for their visionary generosity to Drexel and our neighbors in Philadelphia,” said Drexel President John Fry. “Their far-ranging gift demonstrates not only their commitment to expanding educational opportunity and quality programming to the broadest spectrum of talented students, but also their confidence and trust in Drexel’s civic engagement mission to promote health equity and to help build more equitable learning environments in our city’s public schools.”

Prior to this gift, Ronald and Kathleen Disney had established two endowed funds to benefit LeBow College students participating in Build Relationships in Diverse Group Experiences (BRIDGE), a learning community created at Drexel in 2012 to support students from underrepresented backgrounds as they develop into future leaders in their professions.

“The breadth of Ron and Kathy’s generous gift is extraordinary,” said Vibhas Madan dean and R. John Chapel, Jr. Dean’s Chair at LeBow College. “Opening our doors to the broadest range of capable students is our highest priority and we are very grateful to the Disneys for helping us advance this goal. Their wide-ranging commitment will have a multi-dimensional impact on our efforts to support student success – now and well into the future.”

Including $1 million from that previous commitment, the new gift creates nine endowed funds that will be named in honor of the donors.

The Disney Endowed Funds that will provide direct financial support to students, including a scholarship fund for undergraduate business and engineering students participating in BRIDGE and graduate students enrolled in joint MD/MBA and JD/MBA degree programs; a co-op fund providing financial support for LeBow College students on unpaid or under-paid cooperative education experiences; and an “Operation Graduation” fund providing scholarship awards to undergraduate LeBow College students at risk of not graduating due to financial hardship.

The Disney Endowed Funds established to support access, opportunity and student success at the University include:

  • A fund providing support for initiatives that promote diversity, equity and inclusion at LeBow College, including participation by current and prospective students in conferences and professional development programs, and recruitment of faculty and professional staff.
  • A fund providing operational support to BRIDGE programs at LeBow College and other Drexel schools, as well as Camp BRIDGE, a two-week summer academic program designed to introduce the college experience to middle-school students.
  • An advising support fund supporting mental health and well-being workshops, counseling programming, mentoring programming, and academic and career advisory resources for LeBow College students.
  • A research and innovation fund supporting efforts at LeBow College to promote student success by further aligning with industry partners to develop new curriculum offerings, provide in-class experiential learning opportunities, integrate faculty research into curricula and update technology.

Endowed funds will also support community-focused initiatives, including Drexel’s efforts to launch and maintain a mentoring program, developed with the School District of Philadelphia, for students attending Samuel A. Powel Elementary School and the Science Leadership Academy Middle School. To tackle hunger and economic insecurity, funds will also support collaborative research projects and work between LeBow College and Drexel’s Dana and David Dornsife School of Public Health that address hunger and poverty in the Philadelphia region.

Ronald Disney is president of Disney Bingham Investments, a health care consulting and investment firm based in Dallas. He has held roles in the health care industry for more than 40 years, including consulting, hospital management and development and operation of ambulatory surgery centers.

A native of Baltimore, Ronald Disney received a bachelor’s degree in commerce and engineering in 1972 from Drexel’s College of Business and Administration. The school was renamed in 1999 to honor Bennett S. LeBow, a 1960 graduate of Drexel’s College of Engineering, following his transformative gift to the business school.

“Drexel has had a profound impact on my life, including two-and-half years of practical co-op experiences,” said Ronald Disney. “It’s a real privilege to give back and help others access similar opportunities and to advance Drexel’s mission of active engagement with communities.”

Kathleen Disney met her future husband in Baltimore while he was pursuing a Drexel co-op at Western Electric Company.

“Ron and I are so pleased to be able to make this gift,” she said. “It’s always concerned us that not everybody gets the same opportunities to make the best use of their talents and capabilities. By supporting Drexel and its neighboring communities, we’re able to do something about that.”

The Disneys’ gift marks the latest milestone in Drexel’s fundraising and engagement campaign, The Future Is a Place We Make, which launched publicly in 2017 and will formally conclude on June 30, 2022. With this new commitment, the campaign has surpassed $775 million in donor giving. The campaign advances the University’s highest strategic priorities, including creating pathways for student support and success; growing commitment to access, diversity and inclusion; promoting pioneering approaches in teaching and learning; accelerating multidisciplinary and high-impact research and innovation; and deepening civic engagement. In addition to its financial goals, the campaign seeks to engage a widening circle of Drexel alumni in the life of the University.