Ringling College of Art and Design president Larry Thompson announced at a press conference Monday morning that the college has received a $15 million gift, the largest in its 86-year history. Donated by Ringling College trustee Dr. Joel Morganroth and his wife, Dr. Gail Morrison Morganroth, the donation is earmarked for scholarships, capital improvements, equipment, the Sarasota Museum of Art and a brand-new endowed chair in virtual reality.
Thompson says the gift brings the college closer to its goal of being “the preeminent art and design college in the world.” During Thompson’s 19 years, the college has added 10 buildings; increased student enrollment 66 percent, from 870 students to 1,460; increased student scholarships from $350,000 a year to $13 million; and added seven new majors. The most recent major is the B.A. in virtual reality, the first time a college has offered this major.
The Morganroths moved to Sarasota in 2009 after visiting friends. Joel Morganroth is an academic cardiologist and founder of ERT, a global company that evaluates risks in clinical trials; Gail Morrison Morganroth is a practicing nephrologist at the Perlman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Contemporary art collectors, the couple met Thompson about three years ago and Joel quickly joined the board of trustees. Joel Morganroth says the gift was made using the same criteria the family would use in the corporate world: love of the product, an investment in something that is good for society and an investment in the future.
“The new endowed chair in virtual reality will be the way our children and grandchildren will learn everything,” Joel Morganroth told the crowd. “We hope our gift inspires others.”