Dr. Joel Morganroth and his wife, Gail Morrison Morganroth, gave the school its first eight-figure gift, which will help fund a new virtual reality major, among other causes.
Ringling College of Art and Design President Larry Thompson made a historic announcement Jan. 29 in the Patricia Thompson Gallery in the college's Keating Center.
No, he's not retiring like many feared upon hearing there would be an announcement, he said. Instead, the president announced the school just received its first eight-figure gift, the largest single gift the institution has received since its founding in 1931.
Board of Trustees member Dr. Joel Morganroth and his wife, Gail Morrison Morganroth, donated $15 million to the college, which will go toward capital, scholarships, endowment, the Sarasota Museum of Art, current and future programming and the creation of the first endowed department head at Ringling College in its newest major, Virtual Reality Development.
“We look at this as an investment in not just higher education, but also in art, design, technology, creativity and to the community,” said Dr. Joel Morganroth. “We hope (it) will have a major impact, be transformative and hopefully meet, along the way, Larry’s dream of making Ringling College the preeminent (art) college in the world.”
Morganroth and his wife chose to make this donation to the college in the fall of 2017 because they wanted to give a gift to an institution that shares their values of strong leadership, morality, ethics, fiscal responsibility and innovation. They also wanted to ensure the gift would be good for not only the institution receiving it, but for the community at large.
He noted Thompson, who will soon enter his 20th year as president of the college, as a key factor in their decision to give the gift to Ringling College. Morganroth said it is largely due to Thompson that the college is experiencing a pivotal point of development, evident in the recent opening of 10 new buildings, the increase of its annual student scholarship aid total to $13 million a year and the start of the country’s first virtual reality major.
Morganroth said the ability to create the first endowed department head at the college in this major is one of the aspects of the gift he’s most excited about.
“I believe virtual reality is going to be the way our children and grandchildren are going to learn virtually everything in all fields,” he said. “We believe that VR, which is a combination of art, technology and science, will be the leader in the education of the world.”
Gail Morrison Morganroth agreed, adding that the first VR majors at the school will mark a new generation of leaders.
“They’ll be the pioneers and settlers showing that this is the new way to learn,” she said.
Dr. Joel Morganroth is an academic cardiologist who is also a founder of ERT, a global company that helps ensure the safety of new medical therapies. Gail Morrison Morganroth is an academic nephrologist who served as vice dean for education for more than 20 years at the University of Pennsylvania's Perelman School of Medicine. They have lived in Sarasota since 2009.
Thompson said he is grateful for the gift and looks forward to seeing how it will aide his goal of making Ringling College the preeminent art and design college, “period.”
“Art and design is about progress, creativity, change and growth, and Ringling College has been dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and designers from around the globe for over 86 years,” Thompson said in a release. “But that mission cannot be accomplished without the support and generosity of our friends. We are honored and grateful for this momentous gift — a gift that will bolster every corner of our institution.”