GTCR managing director Phil Canfield learned the fundamentals of private equity investing at the Business Honors Program at The University of Texas at Austin. Now he and his wife Mary Beth are giving back to UT’s McCombs School of Business. In recognition of the $20 million gift, the program has been renamed the Canfield Business Honors Program.

Canfield joined Chicago’s GTCR in 1992 and is currently a managing director of the firm. He serves as the co-head of the technology, media and telecommunications group and has been focused on building this area for GTCR since 1996. Canfield currently serves as director of Cision, Inteliquent, Lytx and Mega Broadband Investments. He has played a leadership role in a number of past investments including AppNet, CellNet, DigitalNet, Rural Broadband Investments, Solera, Sorenson Communications, Transaction Network Services and Zayo. Previously, Canfield worked in the corporate finance department of Kidder, Peabody & Co. He holds an MBA from the University of Chicago and a BBA in finance with high honors from the Business Honors Program at the University of Texas.

He is a member of the council at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business and serves on the Polsky Center PE Council for the University of Chicago. In addition, Canfield is a member of the board of trustees for Rush University Medical Center and a member of the board of governors for Rush University. He is also a member of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Foundation’s Trustee Council. Mergers & Acquisitions asked Canfield about his donation to UT.

How did your experience at UT prepare you to be a private equity investor? At the Business Honors Program at The University of Texas, I learned the fundamentals of investing and private equity: accounting, finance, and integrated financial modeling with scenario analysis. I learned these fundamentals in a setting that was rigorous, but also collaborative - different ideas or perspectives were debated in the classroom and in study groups. That’s exactly how it works in private equity, including at GTCR - you use the business fundamentals to analyze and assess and then you overlay with a qualitative discussion about different potential outcomes and scenarios. So, the Business Honors Program at UT was the perfect place to learn how to be a private equity investor.

What do investing in this program and investing in private equity deals have in common? Private equity investors are wired to look for opportunities to get the very best returns for their investment. In our business, our job is to maximize ROI. Investing in an education program, especially through scholarship, is the very best ROI investment you can make philanthropically. If you help someone attain a world-class education through scholarship, that investment will compound over that person’s entire lifetime. It’s just like a private equity investment, except you’re investing in people, not deals.

How will the gift be used? Overall, it is a $20 million gift. The gift is divided into three components. $10 million of the gift supports the Canfield Business Honors Program at the general and programmatic level. That money can be used for anything from hiring a professor, to developing a student program for getting Business Honors students in front of employers in a specific geographic area like New York or Los Angeles, or a specific industry like, technology, energy, private equity, etc. $7 million of the gift is for scholarship. This gift is paired with a $7 million campaign that the school is running to match my $7 million (they’ve raised over half of that already). Once complete, this scholarship fund in combination with prior scholarship funds will allow the Canfield Business Honors Program to offer scholarship to every single student in the program. Finally, the last $3 million is available for immediate use for branding, marketing, student outreach, etc.

What do you hope will be the legacy of the Canfield Business Honors Program? I think the Business Honors Program at UT is the best undergraduate business program in the country. If you talk to potential students in and around Texas, it has that perception. However, when you look at it from a national reputation perspective, it is less well known. There are many high school students in places like New York, Chicago, Denver and Los Angeles that don’t know much about it. I am hopeful that by attracting more students from across the nation, we’ll be able to elevate the national status of and reputation of the program. I’d like the Canfield Business Honors Program to be recognized across the U.S. as the best undergraduate business program in the country.