Grossman donation to fund academic positions and programs

UVM received its largest individual gift in its history this past October, when Steven Grossman and the Grossman Family Foundation donated $20 million to the newly named Grossman School of Business.

This donation will fund three endowed academic positions, the Steven Grossman Chairs in Entrepreneurship, Finance and Sustainable Business as well as provide resources for teaching and programs within the business school, according to the UVM Foundation.

Grossman, a graduate of the class of 1961, was the CEO of Southern Container Corporation from 1987 until the sale of the company in 2008. Southern Container Corp. manufactured  custom cardboard boxes, and was started by Grossman’s grandfather in 1904, according to the UVM Foundation.

In 2007, with 950 employees, Southern Container’s projected revenue was $416.6 million, and ranked 73rd out of 200 privately-owned New York companies, according to a report by Crain’s New York Business.

Rock-Tenn Co. acquired Southern Container Corporation in 2008 for $851 million, as well as $152 million of its debt. Rock-Tenn Co. is a company which manufactures packaging products, merchandising displays and recycled paperboard, according to a 2008 Gwinnett Daily Post article.

Southern Container was the “most profitable corrugated packaging business North America had ever seen,” Rock-Tenn president and COO Steven Voorhees said in a 2013 investor conference, according to a report by NASDAQ.

“At the time we acquired them, they had EBITDA margins of 26 percent and packaging of course were 19 percent, and the rest of the industry was significantly below that,” Voorhees said.

EBITDA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation, and Amortization.

Grossman’s career began as a business student at UVM when the school’s enrollment was about 3,000 students. As of Fall 2015, the university’s enrollment was 12,815 students, according to UVM’s Office of Institutional Research.

He said he hopes his donation will help propel the business school to a top-ranking national institution with a commitment to a certain level of excellence for its students.

“I want the Grossman School of Business to be a place to nurture family business,” Grossman said. He said he joined the Air Force after graduating from UVM, and took over his family’s business after leaving the military.  

Business students say they have seen slight differences in the school since the donation.

“I would say structurally nothing seems that different right away,” junior Drew Flaherty said. “There is definitely a greater sense of pride among both the students and faculty. It’s been pretty interesting to see some professors in particular having a greater sense of enthusiasm since.”

Junior Kristen Roche has yet to see any significant changes to the business school.

“Honestly I was thinking about it yesterday when I saw the sign on the business student center and I was like ‘wow, that’s the only thing I’ve noticed,’” Roche said.

Grossman said knew he was interested in business before college, but was not exactly sure which route he was going to take.

“I was looking for a small New England school that was academically challenging,” Grossman said.

“I felt I received a great education there,” he said. “I also really enjoyed the skiing and the social life.”

The most valuable asset his UVM education gave him was the ability to think and reason well, he said.