Alumni Donate $2 Million to Create University's First Endowed Dean's Chair

On January 29, a standing-room-only crowd packed the President’s Room of Brantly Hall to celebrate a major gift to the School of Business Administration (SoBA).

As donors, trustees, faculty and friends waited in anticipation, President Royce Engstrom announced the University’s first endowed dean’s position, thanks to the generosity of two UM families.

Mark Burnham ’84 and Eric Sprunk ’86, together with their spouses, each made a $1 million contribution to create SoBA’s Endowed Dean’s Chair. Their gifts will enable the school to recruit an exceptional candidate to replace Dean Larry Gianchetta, who retires on June 30 after 41 years as a professor and administrator at the business school. The $2 million endowment guarantees that funds to support the next dean’s salary and vision will be available in perpetuity. 

Mark Burnham, Cheryl Burnham, Blair Sprunk, Eric Sprunk

Burnham and Sprunk are both SoBA graduates who studied finance and accounting. Burnham is the director of finance of Hawthorn Retirement Group LLC, a senior housing company, and managing principal of OZ Cap LLC, an advisory firm. Sprunk, after starting his career at PriceWaterhouseCoopers, joined NIKE Inc. in 1993 and has been with the company in various management positions ever since, currently serving as chief operating officer.

The gift announcement was emotional for both men, as they shared what being a Griz and giving back to UM means to them.

Sprunk joked that a casual conversation with Burnham about leadership led Burnham to ask him to write a million dollar check.

“I’ll do it if you do it,” Sprunk replied.

Sprunk’s connection to UM and Missoula runs deep: he was raised here, and his mother was a graduate and active volunteer with the University. His emotion emerged when he talked about his mother and his son, Cooper, who is currently a business major and plays Grizzly football.

“I’m proud to support the new leadership at the business school, and proud to be a Griz,” he said at the announcement. 

Burnham also choked up when discussing tradition. He met his wife, Cheryl, while they were both UM students. More than a dozen of his family members are alums or associates of UM, including brother Charlie, sister Mary Burnham Alke and Cheryl’s father, John Gordon.

“This place is so much bigger than just an education,” he said. “This is such a special place. We make this gift because we want others to give. Generosity is the key to a good life.”

Sprunk and Burnham families

Pictured above: (Top photo) Mark Burnham, Cheryl Burnham, Blair Sprunk and Eric Sprunk at the gift announcement. (Bottom photo) The Burnham clan came out in force to celebrate the gift and their family's connection to UM.

Watch a video of the announcement at SupportUM.org/chair.