February 11, 2020

Georgia Tech to Name New Tower for Donor, Alumnus Who Led Major Medical Firm

Bill George Plans to Give Nearly $19 Million for Industrial and Systems Engineering Building

By Tony Wilbert
CoStar News

February 10, 2020 | 5:14 P.M.

Georgia Tech is poised to name a new tower at its Technology Square development in Atlanta for an alumnus and major donor who served as chairman and CEO of a global medical device maker and attributes his career in business to the education he got at the research university.

The school plans to name a new building complex at the third phase of Tech Square in midtown Atlanta for Bill George and his wife, Penny George. The University System of Georgia Board of Regents still needs to approve the deal and plans to vote on it Tuesday. The board’s committee on real estate and facilities has recommended approval of the measure.

Bill George, who moved from Grand Rapids, Michigan, in 1960 to attend Georgia Tech, and his wife will make a donation of nearly $19 million to ensure the 400,000-square-foot complex on Fifth Street between Spring Street and West Peachtree Street comes to fruition. Bill George graduated from Georgia Tech in 1964 with a degree in industrial engineering.

Bill George said he and his wife, who already have made more than $4.1 million in contributions to Georgia Tech, wanted to give more because the university positioned Bill George for a successful and lucrative career, especially during his time at Medtronic. He also has served on the board of Goldman Sachs, Exxon Mobil, Target Corp. and pharmaceutical giant Novartis.

“I was, frankly, the beneficiary of Georgia Tech,” Bill George said in an interview. “It really set me off on a new direction for my life. We see this as an opportunity to help others to be successful.”

The complex is one part of Tech Square Phase III that also includes Scheller Tower, a new building named for philanthropists Roberta and Ernest Scheller Jr. In 2012, the Schellers made a $50 million donation, and Georgia Tech renamed its College of Management the Ernest Scheller Jr. College of Business, which will move to Scheller Tower when it opens.

With Tech Square, Georgia Tech is grouping key schools that educate leaders in healthcare, logistics, transportation and information science “who will define the industrial world in the decades ahead” and allow Atlanta to one day rival Silicon Valley in California as a top tech hub, said Bill George.

“When I first heard from former Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson about his vision for the Tech Square Phase III project, I became very excited about its potential to transform both Georgia Tech and Atlanta, and shared it with my wife Penny,” George said in an email. “Since the tower would house my undergraduate department, Industrial and Systems Engineering, and be next to the new graduate Scheller business school and a block from the high-speed computing center at CODA, I realized that collaboration between these three groups – combined with dozens of startups and incubators nearby — would make Tech and Atlanta the world’s leading center for industrial data science.”

The Georges are making a large financial commitment to help ensure Tech’s stature in data science is fortified. “Most recently, the Georges have entered into an $18,750,000 binding statement of intent with Georgia Tech and the Georgia Tech Foundation for the naming of George Tower, which would house the H. Milton Stewart School of Industrial and Systems Engineering,” according to the agenda for the Tuesday board meeting.

After graduating from Georgia Tech, Bill George went on to have a successful career in business and served as chairman of medical device maker Medtronic from 1996-2002 and as its CEO from 1991-2001. He now is a senior fellow at Harvard Business School, where he has taught leadership as a professor of management practice since 2004 and often appears as a guest on CNBC.

If the board approves the motion to name the complex for the Georges, the couple would contribute $1.25 million per year for five years and then the remaining $12.5 million over the next seven years with the final payment due no later than 2031, according to board documents.

Georgia Tech plans to use the first $6.25 million of the Georges’ contribution as a challenge grant to attract an additional $6.25 million, which would bring the total commitment to $25 million.

If Georgia Tech secures full project funding, it plans to start construction this summer and could complete the third phase of Tech Square by the end of 2022.

This content was originally posted on CoStar.com on 2/10/2020.