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Founding Gift Provided for the Social Enterprise Initiative

By Allan Friedman, Executive Director of Booth Communications  |  february, 2013, Issue 1
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John Edwardson                                                   (Courtesy of Booth Communications)

John Edwardson, retired chairman and chief executive of CDW, Vernon Hills, Ill., has given $5 million to the University of Chicago Booth School of Business as the founding gift to the school's Social Enterprise Initiative, which supports student, faculty and alumni interest in the social sector, the school announced.

The social sector includes for-profit and nonprofit organizations with a mission to improve social outcomes that are governed and financed to support their mission.

The funds will be used to support the core activities of the Initiative, which include helping students launch and grow businesses in the social sector, matching alumni interested in board service with nonprofit organizations, and supporting student groups and career interests in the social sector.

The gift will also be used to fund faculty research and data collection, a major activity of the Initiative. In recognition of the gift, the Chicago Booth business plan competition for social ventures has been renamed the John Edwardson Social New Venture Challenge.
Edwardson received an MBA from Booth in 1972. He is chairman of the Council on Chicago Booth and a member of the University's board of trustees.

"The Social Enterprise Initiative is uniquely Chicago," said Sunil Kumar, dean of Chicago Booth. "It builds on Chicago Booth's long-standing culture of rigorous analysis and our discipline-based approach to understanding organizations, markets and policy."

Edwardson said the Social Enterprise Initiative is a natural outgrowth of the interests and approaches Chicago Booth students and alumni take to their work.

"I am delighted to support Booth's Social Enterprise Initiative," Edwardson said. "Booth students, faculty and alumni are engaging in a variety of ways in the social sector, from starting their own social ventures, to choosing a career in the impact economy, making a meaningful commitment to philanthropic and volunteer activities, and doing academic research."

Led by faculty co-directors Marianne Bertrand, the Chris P. Dialynas Distinguished Service Professor of Economics, and Robert Gertner, deputy dean of the Part-Time MBA programs and the Joel F. Gemunder Professor of Strategy and Finance, the Initiative brings together researchers with social sector interests from across the University's academic disciplines, including economics, finance, marketing and psychology.

Edwardson was chairman and chief executive of CDW from 2001 to 2011. He remained chairman until he retired in 2012. The company is a leading provider of technical products and services for business, government and education. Earlier in his career he was president of United Airlines, chief financial officer of Northwest Airlines, president of Burns International Services and executive vice president of Ameritech, now part of AT&T. Edwardson received Booth's Distinguished Corporate Alumni Award in 2006, for his successful track record in business.

Current and recent research on the social sector by Booth faculty includes field experiments on financial literacy and financial decision-making by the poor, studies on the impact of health and education reforms on development, and social psychology foundations of altruism and volunteerism. The Social Enterprise Initiative will host a conference on impact investing for academics and practitioners later this year.

Last Updated 2/10/13
Last Updated 2/10/13