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Home Featured Story Eller Alum Gives $1M to Create Endowed Chair in Management

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By Liz Warren-Pederson

Eller alumnus Stephen Robbins, the world’s No. 1 best-selling textbook author in management and organizational behavior, has endowed a $1 million faculty chair at the Eller College of Management.

“A strong faculty is at the core of everything we do,” said Jeff Schatzberg, dean of Eller. “They create the student experience through excellence in curricular development and teaching, and drive the college’s reputation through their original research. We are grateful to Stephen for supporting this vital work in the Department of Management and Organizations.”

Robbins, who completed his undergraduate and doctoral studies at the UA, has supported Ph.D. students studying in the Department of Management and Organizations at the Eller College for many years. He is a professor emeritus at San Diego State University and has served in management roles for Shell and Reynolds Metals.

“I kept in touch with UA management faculty at professional meetings over the years,” Robbins said. “But as my career progressed and my book sales increased, I wanted to reach out and say thank you.”

Robbins said he never forgot how tough it was, financially, to get through his doctoral program. “I think my annual stipend was $2,600,” he said. “When I was able to give back, I started by providing financial assistance to doctoral students in organizational behavior. A few years later, when the administration mentioned the need for a doctoral study center, I thought that was something I would have appreciated as a student. So I helped fund that.”

He said that setting up an endowed chair in organizational behavior is his continued thank you to the college and department. “The two management profs on my doctoral dissertation happened to both be textbook authors,” he explained. “I saw the influence they had and the visibility that they got from their books. So I guess they were my role models. Had I gone to another doctoral program, I’m not sure I would have been exposed to the textbook-side of academia.”

Aleksander Ellis has been selected as the first holder of the Robbins Endowed Chair in Organizational Behavior. 

“Some of Aleks’ most important contributions to our department have been through his work with Ph.D. students, placing them at great institutions such as UNC (University of North Carolina) and Maryland,” said Jerel Slaughter, head of the Department of Management and Organizations. Slaughter also is the Robbins Professor of Management, which was created through a previous gift from Robbins. “This makes him the perfect recipient of an award funded by Stephen, who has supported our doctoral students for over a decade now.”

The gift contributes to Eller College’s $65 million goal for Arizona NOW, the UA’s fundraising campaign. The college recently completed raising funds for its capital project, a $5 million, 13,000-square-foot addition to McClelland Hall that will house the Karl and Stevie Eller Professional Development Center. With about $10 million left to raise toward its campaign goal, the Eller College is now focused on funding to recruit and retain the very best faculty.

“The world-class faculty at the Eller College are unlocking new understanding of the dynamics that shape the business landscape,” said Ann Weaver Hart, president of the University of Arizona. “As innovative teachers they bring the insights of their research into the classroom and prepare tomorrow’s workforce to be nimble, innovative, and essential contributors to the economic well-being of our state and nation. This gift is a wonderful recognition of the impact that Eller faculty have and we are incredibly grateful for Dr. Robbins’ generosity.”

The newly funded Robbins Endowed Chair in Organizational Behavior at Eller brings the total number of endowed chairs at the UA to 111. During the Arizona NOW campaign, private donors have funded 32 endowed faculty positions, one of the most prestigious honors the University can bestow.

An endowment is a gift where the principal is invested in perpetuity to provide annual cash support. The chair holder can use the annual payout for a variety of purposes, including salary, research, and general department support. A gift of $1 million or more is required to establish an endowed chair.

Robbins’ generosity puts the UA closer to its goal of raising $1.5 billion during Arizona NOW, the comprehensive fundraising campaign distinguished by its unprecedented scope as well as its ties to Never Settle, the UA’s strategic academic and business plan. To date and thanks to the generosity of nearly 85,000 distinct donors, the campaign is well ahead of pace with 88 percent of the goal already raised.

Top photo of Stephen Robbins (center) with his wife, Laura, and then head of the Department of Management and Organizations, Stephen Gilliland, at the dedication of the doctoral student study space. Photo by Thomas Veneklasen.