Donald J. Trump found his way to Steinberg-Dietrich Hall on Tuesday afternoon 32 years ago. It was Oct. 23, 1984, and the real-estate tycoon spoke at the university for the first time since graduating from the Wharton School of Finance and Commerce nearly 14 years ago. As 900 students crammed to hear Trump tell the story behind his booming empire, the lecture room overflowed.
But Trump’s donations to Wharton-or Penn, for that matter-remained a mystery, like his college years. Rumors on campus and previous reports concluded mostly that the Republican presidential candidate never made significant donations to Penn, despite his Wharton degree during the election.
However, a comprehensive search by The Daily Pennsylvanian found that Trump may have donated at least $1,480,500 to Penn on the basis of reports from the university, tax filings from his foundation and other sources. Over the past three decades or so, Trump has been identified as a donor or pledged donor for specific amounts on a number of university reports. These reports do not, however, distinguish between donors and donors. Without this distinction, the Daily Pennsylvanian could not verify whether these donations were actually made or pledged and never carried out.
Donations or pledges may have gone to Wharton’s Campaign for Sustained Leadership, which helped fund the construction of Huntsman Hall, according to Penn’s annual reports.
A 2003 Wharton Investors Report lists “all gifts” made to the 1996-2003 campaign. Trump appears on a list called “The President’s Circle”: A select group of individuals who made “gifts of $1,000,000 to $4,999,999.” Annual reports of university donations do not disclose contributions-instead, benefactors are listed according to the range of dollars of their donation or pledged donation. If he pledged, Trump could have donated at least $1 million or nearly $5 million over those years. The University declined to disclose donations from Trump, saying donor information is private.
The DP searched 32 annual reports issued between 1968 and 2007 by Penn and Wharton. The University Archives and Records Center and the Van Pelt Library hold most of these reports. However, a significant amount of reports are missing, making it difficult to trace Trump’s exact history of donating or pledging donations to Penn. Trump’s name appears five times between 1996 and 2001 in university-wide reports of donations as having donated or pledged at least $25,000 in unrestricted gifts each of those years-gifts to be used entirely at Penn’s discretion. These donations are in addition to his donation to the Sustained Leadership Campaign in Wharton.
Trump’s latest appearances are in reports for 2006 and 2007, when he may have donated $100,000 to Wharton or pledged $499,999 each year. A sum of the minimum amounts Trump may have pledged or donated to Penn shows that the Wharton graduate may have donated $1,350,000, based solely on Penn’s annual reports of donations.
This string of donations Trump may have made in the late 1990s coincides roughly with the registration of his children at Penn. Donald J. Trump Jr. started classes in 1996 at Penn and in 2000 at Ivanka Trump. The donations also match Trump’s gift to fund a project closer to home. According to a Jan. 28, 1997 DP article, Wharton’s graduate donated more than $100,000 to the New York Penn Club in 1996. The Penn Club-founded in 1994-is a private clubhouse in Midtown Manhattan for students, alumni and membership faculty.
The gift is described in the article as Trump’s “first major donation,” but then-Development Vice President and Alumni Relations Virginia Clark did not specify the exact amount of the donation. The DP reached Clark, now Smithsonian’s Assistant Secretary for Advancement, last week, but she did not return requests for comments. However, an administrative assistant from the Penn Club, who refused to be named, confirmed that Trump is listed as the Penn Club’s “founder.” According to the Washington Post’s book “Trump Revealed,” the minimum gift to be considered a “founder” was $150,000.
Donald J. Trump Foundation Records show that Trump also donated small sums to Penn via his personal foundation, the Donald J. Trump Foundation. Three decades of the foundation’s IRS tax filings obtained by the DP revealed that since the foundation was established in 1987, the charity has donated a total of $5,500 to Penn and Penn-affiliated groups. The first donation was a donation of $3,000 to the “Wharton Business School Club” in 1988, followed by $2,500 to the University of Pennsylvania Trustees in 1989.
The tax filings also show that Trump gave New York University, Columbia University, Fordham University and other educational institutions thousands of dollars repeatedly. The name of the 1968 class Gifts Trump is not an omnipresent fixture at Penn, as it is on skyscrapers and hotels throughout the country. Numerous Penn buildings and programmes, such as Ronald Perelman, David Pottruck and Walter Annenberg, are named after well-known benefactors. But Trump’s name can be spotted on a plaque in the Van Pelt Library seminar room of 1968, donated by his graduate class in 2003.
The plaque names Trump and other project lead donors, but what his minimum donation to the room was is unclear. 1968 Wharton graduate Douglas Cox was the gift chair of his class for 45 years, but he could not remember the minimum donation to get the name of a class member on the plaque. “We usually contact people who are willing to give $1,000 or $25,000,” Cox said every five years about class gifts. “it’s big gifts, but it’s not big gifts.”