Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For $30 Million, School's Name Is All Yours

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

For $30 Million, School's Name Is All Yours

Article excerpt

If anyone out there has $30 million, you can probably get your name on a Pittsburgh public school.

Saleem Ghubril, executive director of the Pittsburgh Promise, the hyper-ambitious college scholarship program that's all but looking under seat cushions for more cash, concedes its latest fundraising ploy is a Hail Mary pass.

"They seldom get caught," Mr. Ghubril said. "But every now and then one gets caught."

Look no further than the chairman of the Promise board, Franco Harris, for proof, he said. That statue at the airport of the Steelers legend making his Immaculate Reception shows that a downfield receiver can come out of nowhere.

This one's still hiding, though, while the scholarship fund tries to entice someone to pony up tens of millions of dollars.

"It's still an idea," Mr. Ghubril said. "Nobody's standing in line."

The Pittsburgh school board very quietly made this possible in 2011 with a revision to its naming policy. Historically, schools have been named for their neighborhoods, historical figures and those who have "made an outstanding contribution either in education or to the community where the school is located."

Those contributions weren't financial, but the board gave itself this additional naming option: "persons or entities that have either supported the School District or The Pittsburgh Promise through distinguished effort or substantial financial gift."

A new Promise brochure now proclaims that for the low, low price of $30 million to $99 million, a donor can get the "naming opportunity of a high profile school."

Mr. Ghubril said he has pitched the idea to a couple of people, and he added with a bit more hope than realism that "there are some for whom $30 million is pocket change." Thus far, any such humongous pockets have remained zipped.

Maybe they'll never open. I'm not sure how I'd feel if the exchange of $30 million for a school name does take place. The board added all sorts of stipulations about final approval and not granting naming rights to anyone who made their money through tobacco, booze, illegal drugs or weapons, but I guess I'm still old- fashioned. I believe that $30 million should buy you a slugging outfielder for a season or three, not your name above the schoolhouse door. …

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