U-M to launch leadership center with $20 million gift from former General Mills CEO Stephen Sanger and Karen Sanger

January 15, 2015
  • umichnews@umich.edu

Steve and Karen SangerSteve and Karen SangerANN ARBOR—Today’s global challenges require leaders who have the character, capabilities and connections to drive real change and innovation in the world. The University of Michigan today announced a $20 million gift to the Ross School of Business from Stephen W. and Karen Sanger to create the Sanger Leadership Center.

The new center will expand the school’s successful leadership development programming and empower more students to become leaders who make a positive difference in the world.

The Sanger Leadership Center will incorporate and expand on the current activities of the Ross Leadership Initiative—including the annual Impact Challenge and Crisis Challenge, Legacy Lab, Story Lab, skills-based workshops and a variety of learning communities—as well as the Leaders Academy, where students create, launch and lead actual businesses. The new center will be a resource for Ross students and provide them with personalized feedback, coaching and development. The center will also be a resource for Ross faculty who are developing cutting-edge ideas and new leadership practices.

“Leadership development is a strategic imperative for companies around the world— it is one of those burning issues that keeps CEOs up at night,” said Alison Davis-Blake, the Edward J. Frey Dean of the Ross School. “At Michigan Ross, we have built a legacy of some of the most intensive, realistic leadership development opportunities as part of our mission to develop leaders who make a positive difference in the world.

“Thanks to the Sangers’ commitment and generosity, we will be able to expand our innovative programming for more students who stand to make a positive impact on business for years to come.”

Stephen W. Sanger, who received his MBA from U-M in 1970, is retired chairman and CEO of General Mills, one of the world’s largest food companies. He joined the company in 1974 and progressed through a variety of positions in marketing management across the company’s consumer food businesses.

During Sanger’s tenure as chairman and CEO, General Mills’ sales more than doubled, and earnings and market capitalization tripled. Under Sanger’s leadership, General Mills was consistently recognized for its innovative workplace practices and strong commitment to corporate responsibility.

As a testament to Sanger’s commitment to and practice of positive leadership, General Mills has been regularly listed among Fortune’s Most Admired Companies and 100 Best Places to Work. In 2007, it was named in Fortune as “a global top company for leaders,” ranking sixth out of 550 companies worldwide. In 2014, it ranked fourth globally in Aon Hewitt’s survey of top companies for leaders.

Karen Sanger was a secondary school teacher before becoming an attorney, specializing in small business law. She, her husband and their children, Mark and Ashley, share a passion for U-M.

“Among those of us who have recruited talent for our companies, one of the things that sets Ross graduates apart is their leadership skills,” Stephen Sanger said. “This difference reflects the innovative, hands-on programs of the Ross Leadership Initiative. Karen and I are honored to support the continued growth and development of this program through the establishment of the Sanger Leadership Center.”

Scott DeRue, Ross associate dean and faculty director of the Sanger Leadership Center, said the Sangers’ gift will increase the school’s ability to develop the character and capabilities of future business leaders.

“It will help us create even more high-impact, high-touch leadership development experiences that students can’t get anywhere else but Ross,” he said. “I envision a future where 50,000 Michigan Ross students—past, present and future—lead positive change in themselves and around the world.

“The creation of the Sanger Leadership Center and the generous gift from the Sangers mark a major leap forward in achieving this important vision. It’s an incredible addition to our leadership initiatives, and I am proud to be a part of this school and university at such an exciting time.”

The Sangers’ gift is part of the universitywide Victors for Michigan campaign, which kicked off in 2013 with a goal of raising $4 billion.


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