TAMPA — It's a very good time to be a College of Business at the University of South Florida. • USF president Judy Genshaft announced at a Friday morning community unveiling that Les and Pam Muma — long-standing contributors, leaders in money raising for the university and both USF graduates — are donating $25 million to name the College of Business in Tampa. • The gift is the single largest donation in USF's 58-year history. And it means the college will be known as the USF Muma College of Business. • During a ceremony in the college's atrium, a drum roll sounded and a banner dropped, revealing the new name. A crowd of students, faculty, staff and guests gave a standing ovation and watched as the Mumas exchanged hugs with Genshaft and a beaming Moez Limayem, dean of the College of Business.
Genshaft also will celebrate the Mumas and their gift today at Raymond James Stadium during the USF Bulls homecoming football game.
"That university, that campus, that business school built a platform on which we built our career and much of our lives," Les Muma said in an interview that included his wife and Limayem this week with the Tampa Bay Times.
"This is a visible thank you to USF," he said.
By coincidence, the dedication of the Muma College of Business comes little more than a month after the USF St. Petersburg College of Business received $10 million to be named for retired entrepreneur Kate Tiedemann.
Friday's gift of $25 million brings the Mumas' total giving to USF to $41.2 million, making them the largest individual donors in USF's history. Right behind their overall giving come Frank and Carol Morsani, major philanthropists in Tampa Bay, whose multiple donations include a $20 million individual gift in 2011 that resulted in naming USF's College of Medicine after the Morsanis. Another major contributor to USF is area philanthropist Kiran Patel, whose donations helped fund the Patel College of Global Sustainability.
Muma, 70, emphasized he and Pam, 68, feel a moral obligation to give back. "There are a lot of wealthy people in this country who just sit on their money, and I have never understood that," he said.
A 1966 USF graduate in mathematics, Les Muma is the retired chairman and CEO of Fiserv Inc., a financial industry automation products and services company he co-founded in 1984. Together with Pam, a 1968 graduate and a 28-year supporter of Junior Achievement of Tampa Bay, Les has a long history of philanthropic support of USF. He served as both chairman of the USF Foundation board of directors and as chairman of the first phase of the "USF: Unstoppable" fundraising campaign that topped $620 million. The campaign's second phase is on track to raise that total to $1 billion.
If the naming of USF's various colleges after major donors seems self-indulgent, Les Muma suggests there's a much more practical reason. The couple had planned to keep most of their philanthropy anonymous in order to minimize the volume of people asking for money.
But friend and fellow USF fundraiser Frank Morsani urged Muma to be more forthcoming because it would inspire others with wealth to step forward. That was also a lesson learned as a co-leader of USF's fundraising campaign. "You can't go asking people for $1 million when you have not given the same yourself," said Pam Muma, who helped found the USF Women in Leadership and Philanthropy organization, and who chairs the board of directors of the Tampa General Hospital Foundation.
As dean of the business school, Limayem said the Mumas' generosity will help bolster faculty engagement in the business community and help students become better prepared for the workplace.
As an example, he said the college will issue "passports" to business students that will be stamped to document each student's participation in building resumes, practicing presentation skills and attending events featuring guest speakers and related business events. That extra discipline, the dean said, will help differentiate students. Those accumulating enough passport stamps will graduate as "Muma Leaders" that will be considered superior job candidates.
"This gift elevates USF into the top tier of business schools, one where donors so strongly believe in the mission and vision of the business school that they are willing to invest in it in a substantial and transformative way," Limayem said.
"It's such a moment of pride for us, a big moment," said Garrett Walker, 18, a freshman majoring in marketing and finance who attended Friday's ceremony. He wore a green T-shirt bearing the business school's new logo.
"As the dean said, only elite schools have names."
The $25 million gift will be split with $20 million or more serving as an endowment to be invested, with proceeds to provide long-term funding for the Muma College of Business. The remaining millions will be used early on to enhance the business school's offerings and, possibly, help endow chairs to attract top teaching talent.
Last month was USF St. Petersburg's chance to celebrate with the naming of its College of Business after benefactor Kate Tiedemann, a retired medical products entrepreneur.
Both the Mumas and Tiedemann happen to live in tony Belleair, south of Clearwater, though they do not know each other.
In each instance, the donors decided to commit millions to USF now rather than amass their fortunes in foundations to take effect after they die.
That's a rising trend among philanthropists, said Joel Momberg, CEO of the USF Foundation, the university system's chief fundraising organization. He attributed the shift, in part, to the influence of billionaire Bill Gates and his decision to give money now while he has some direct say in how it is used.
Momberg anticipates more large donations coming to USF as more of the university's alumni get older and wealthy enough to give back to the school.
For all their commitment and enthusiasm as long-time givers to USF, as well as to Tampa General Hospital, the Mumas acknowledge giving a record sum to the university was a big decision.
Pam Muma said she has been "nervous" about how the gift may be perceived. Les Muma admitted "it is a bit gut-wrenching." His father, a college professor, and his mother, a teacher, are "looking down at us now," he said with a laugh, "asking, 'What the hell are you doing?' "
Limayem, in response, said such a generous gift will prove "inspiring" to many.
Curiously, USF's record gift easily could never have materialized.
The Mumas, Winter Haven high school grads before attending USF, had relocated for years to Wisconsin while Les Muma was building his Fiserv business. The couple helped fund some local University of Wisconsin scholarships.
Then, out of the blue, an old acquaintance from USF's College of Business called and renewed ties with the Mumas in the early 1990s, before their return to the Tampa Bay area.
"I got involved up there (in Milwaukee) because USF had never reached out to me," said Les Muma.
It proved a fortuitous phone call for USF and all of Tampa Bay.
Times staff writer Claire McNeill contributed to this report. Contact Robert Trigaux at email@example.com or (727) 893-8405. Follow @venturetampabay.