Frank McCourt Jr., the colorful, often controversial former owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers, was at Georgetown University Tuesday to celebrate the fruits of his record $100 million gift to the school. The elaborate ceremony of music and speeches brought him nearly to tears, especially when he addressed family members in the audience during his remarks. “I make this gift in gratitude to my family, especially to you, Mom, and to my dad,” he said. “I remain deeply indebted to you all.” He noted the timeliness of the occasion as well—launching a public policy school in a moment of extreme government dysfunction. The school, he said, will try to provide solutions to problems such as the current federal shutdown.
McCourt’s gift surpasses the university’s last record donation of $87 million, given by Harry Toulmin Jr. in 2010. The money funds Georgetown’s ninth school, joining law, business, medicine, and foreign service, to name only some of them. The public policy school in particular will dedicate itself to the analysis of the expanding and deepening government body of data files.
Three generations of McCourts have attended Georgetown over the past 80 years. Frank McCourt Jr. graduated in the class of 1975. A Boston native, he made his fortune in business, mainly commercial real estate projects and parking lots, and eventually bought the Dodgers, Dodger Stadium, and the operating rights to the LA Marathon. In the midst of volatile divorce proceedings in 2011, he put the Dodgers into bankruptcy, and the team was sold for $2 billion to a group that included Magic Johnson and former Washington Nationals president Stan Kasten.
The subject on Tuesday, though, was public policy. “When I was growing up in Boston, public policy was not an abstract concept,” McCourt said. “In my family we talked about it every night and every day.” Coming from a family of nine, he said, “it was amazing to me how quickly a good idea expressed by any one of the nine got the others to quiet down and listen.” He said the mandate of the McCourt School is clear. “The difficulties we face are big, and they are real,” he said “The global, interdisciplinary, data-driven approach of the school will create new solutions to old problems and the myriad challenges [that] are arising.”
The program included a number of other speakers. Georgetown president John J. DeGioia gave an address; provost Robert M. Groves outlined the goals of the McCourt School; chairman Paul Tagliabue spoke on behalf of the board of directors; and there was a greeting from the dean of Georgetown College, Chester L. Gillis, as well as a benediction from the rector of the schools’ Jesuit community, Rev. Joseph E. Lingan, and musical presentations from the Georgetown University Chamber Singers and the Cathedral Brass.