The donation from one of Taiwan's leading financial families is among Wharton's largest. Thanks to a large donation from a family of Wharton School benefactors, the new facility for the Wharton graduate program is one step closer to fruition. Wharton announced Friday a $10 million gift from Taiwanese businessman Chen Fu Koo and his two sons, Chester and Leslie Koo. The money will be used to fund planning and construction for the 300,000-square-foot building on the current Book Store site at 38th Street and Locust Walk. Construction on the building -- whose cost is estimated at $100 million -- is expected to begin this fall, after the Book Store moves to a new, larger space in the Sansom Common complex under construction on the 3600 block of Walnut Street. Jeffrey Sheehan, Wharton associate dean for international relations, estimated that the Koo family's gift is "among the largest half-dozen ever" received by the school. Real estate titan Samuel Zell and corporate executive Jon Huntsman have also made $10 million donations to Wharton within the last 18 months. Chen Fu Koo, 81, is head of The Koo's Group, a Taiwanese financial and industrial conglomerate that includes the Taiwan Cement Corporation, the China Trust Commercial Bank and the China Life Insurance Company. He was one of the creators of the Taiwan Stock Exchange and currently serves as president of the Pacific Basin Economic Council. Koo, also an experienced diplomat, has represented Taiwan at meetings of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and in the Cross-Straits talks with mainland China, where he has often been the lone Taiwanese representative. Koo is not a Wharton alumnus. "To the extent that tensions are being diffused [between Taiwan and China], it is a product of his work," Sheehan said. Despite the large gift, the new building will not bear the Koos' name. Sheehan said naming the facility would require a gift of $40 million -- which no one has yet contributed to the project -- and that the Koo family would be recognized with a named area "proportional" to the size of their gift. The eldest Koo was awarded the Wharton School's Dean's Medal in 1991 and an honorary doctor of laws degree from the University in 1992. Chester and Leslie Koo, who each head subsidiaries of The Koo's Group, received their master's degrees in business administration from Wharton in 1979 and 1981, respectively. Sheehan estimated that between 15 and 20 members of the Koo family and executives in The Koo's Group have passed through Wharton's MBA and advanced-management programs. In a statement, Wharton Dean Thomas Gerrity praised the Koo family for their "continuing commitment and support? over the years." The Koos have funded two endowed professorships, three annual $25,000 scholarships for Taiwanese students and a Wharton executive-education program with previous donations to the school. Sheehan said he initially approached Chester Koo several years ago when the new building was made a "strategic priority" for Wharton. "This is a classic case of a school and a family really having a strong relationship," Sheehan said. "They are model citizens of the University." The proposed Wharton building will primarily house classroom space, replacing current facilities in Vance Hall. A 1992 consulting-firm report concluded that building a new facility would be more economical than renovating existing structures. Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, a New York-based architectural firm -- whose other clients include IBM, Goldman Sachs and Oxford and Stanford universities -- will be designing the building.Comments powered by Disqus
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