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Thursday, Dec 7, 2023

Don and Ellie Knauss Donate $50M to USD

The University of San Diego received one of the largest donations in the university’s history earlier this month – and area business students will be the beneficiaries of the generous gift for generations to come.

On Friday (Dec. 3), USD officials held a special on-campus ceremony to announce that Board Chairman Donald Knauss and his wife Ellie are donating more than $50 million to build the Knauss Center for Business Education.


USD’s business school is also being renamed The Knauss School of Business.  

“This is our investment in educating ethical and compassionate business leaders — leaders who enable a free enterprise system that creates wealth on a fair and equitable playing field,” said Don Knauss, former CEO of Clorox. “Without the creation of wealth, no society can take care of its most vulnerable, lift the standards of living of its citizens or make the investments needed to preserve this planet for future generations.”


“We know that education is a great equalizer,” Knauss added. “If you want to talk about this issue of inequity or inequality, the only answer to that, we believe, is education. People have to have the opportunity to get educated and that’s what is going to lead to progress.”


“We always like to put our money where it is going to make the biggest impact,” Ellie Knauss said. “We have such trust in the way that our commitment to USD is going to be handled and we can see the ripple effects from here of what they are going to do with our donation. We are very excited about the opportunity to work with people who have such talent.”


New Facility to Open in 2022

The Knauss Center for Business Education will officially open in Fall 2022. The new 120,000-square-foot building — together with the renovated Olin Hall — will more than triple the size of current business school.


New facilities to be added inside the Knauss Center for Business Education will include:

• The Free Enterprise Suite, a space with state-of-the-art technology to help seed student startups from across the university.  

• The Student Success Center, which unifies advising, career development, mentoring and all other student services under one roof.  

• The Busch Family Torero production studio, named through the first gift to the building project from Kim and Andy Busch, will be a state-of-the-art production studio for creating mock interviews, videos, podcasts and other tools to help students develop their personal brand.  

• The Dennis Zocco and Dan Rivetti Finance Lab, supported through the generous gift from the Kokua Na Lani Foundation, will help students develop advanced financial analysis skills through training on the most impactful software tools being used by thought leaders in the financial services industry.  

• The Nexus Theatre, a public space that will accommodate everything from small gatherings to large events.  

“We believe that ethical and compassionate leadership in business or other fields is arguably the most powerful force in society,” said USD President James T. Harris III. “At USD, we believe a values-driven education, coupled with a commitment to free enterprise, gives us the means to deliver on our vision to care for and protect society for future generations.”  

The Knauss School of Business will help prepare students to succeed not just academically, but as ethical leaders who are inspired to make a difference in their communities, President Harris added. “We are just thrilled about this opportunity to move the business school to a new level.”

Tim Keane, dean of The Knauss School of Business, said many business schools across the nation today focus on graduating “aspirational leaders.”

“At USD, however, our focus goes deeper to the very heart of who we are as a Catholic institution,” Keene said. “Our focus is on true stewardship — on caring for and protecting society, on using what we learn in the classroom and in the world for good. We are incredibly grateful to Don and Ellie for their generous gift and visionary leadership in support of our mission.”


The Knauss Legacy  

The retired chairman and CEO of The Clorox Company, Don Knauss served as an artillery officer in the United States Marine Corps and started his business career in brand management in the paper products division at Procter & Gamble.


He moved on to the Frito Lay and Tropicana divisions of PepsiCo, Inc., and worked his way up to become president of Coca-Cola’s Southern Africa division and then became chief executive officer of The Minute Maid Company. Knauss later became president and chief operating officer of Coca-Cola North America, before reaching the pinnacle at The Clorox Company.  

Don and Ellie Knauss established the Knauss Scholars Program for the children of Clorox employees. They also support student veterans through the Don and Ellie Knauss Veteran Resource and Support Center at Texas A&M.;  

The couple, who have funded college education for hundreds of students nationwide by establishing scholarships for students with financial need at multiple universities, are proud parents of four children, including one who is a 2011 USD graduate.  

The University of San Diego is private Roman Catholic research university with students from 69 countries and all 50 states.


The youngest independent institution on the U.S. News & World Report list of top 100 universities in the U.S., USD’s eight academic divisions include the College of Arts and Sciences, The Knauss School of Business, the Shiley-Marcos School of Engineering, the School of Law, the School of Leadership and Education Sciences, the Hahn School of Nursing and Health Science, the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies, and the Division of Professional and Continuing Education.  

USD will celebrate its 75th anniversary in 2024.

University of San Diego

Founded: 1949

President: James T. Harris III

Total enrollment: 9,041

Undergraduate students: 5,702

Business school students: 1,679

Website: www.sandiego.edu

Notable: Chartered in July 1949 as the independent San Diego College for Women and San Diego University, the academic institutions merged in 1972 to become the University of San Diego.


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