It deeply saddens me to share that renowned business leader, lifelong philanthropist, committed Spartan and beloved alumnus Eli Broad (B.A. Accounting ’54) died April 30, 2021, at the age of 87. Our Broad College community extends our sincerest condolences to his loving wife, Edythe, and their two sons, Gary and Jeffrey.
Eli Broad was a larger-than-life figure in everything he touched, and his relentless pursuit of excellence, together with a bias for action, has resulted in a rich legacy of successful achievements. His life’s philosophy of striving for the impossible is beautifully captured in his book, The Art of Being Unreasonable: Lessons in Unconventional Thinking, in which he describes questioning the status quo, not settling for mediocrity, thinking outside the box and working hard as the main reasons for his remarkable achievements.
From the time he graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in accounting and became the youngest CPA in the state, he sought out and thrived on challenges. He became the first entrepreneur to build two Fortune 500 companies from the ground up in two different industries, and he achieved this over a five-decade career. These successful ventures were born out of being a lifelong learner and having an unquenching thirst for knowledge — he often read five newspapers each day.
Mr. Broad also showed tireless support for the sciences, the arts and higher education throughout his remarkable career. He and Edythe created the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation to deliver on their lifelong commitment to philanthropy and advance entrepreneurship for these public goods.
As a loyal Spartan, Mr. Broad has left an extraordinary and unparalleled legacy on the banks of the Red Cedar. In total, Eli and Edythe have given nearly $100 million to support MSU in a multitude of ways. From building the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum to supporting the College of Education, their impact has been significant across campus.
Nowhere has their giving been more evident than here in the Broad College of Business. Passionate about the MBA program, in 1991, Mr. Broad made what was at the time the largest gift ever made to a public business school. His $20 million commitment to the Eli Broad College of Business and the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management — both renamed in his honor — was designed to help the university’s new full-time MBA program emerge as one of the nation’s top graduate management programs. Today, that program is a top 25 U.S. public program that has launched the careers of countless Spartans.
In 2014, Eli and Edythe expanded upon their original gift to the Broad College with a $25 million challenge grant as part of the university’s Empower Extraordinary capital campaign, with $10 million specifically dedicated to launching the capital raise for what was to become the Edward J. Minskoff Pavilion.
When the Minskoff Pavilion officially opened its doors in 2019, I was privileged to share the stage with Mr. Broad and Edward J. Minskoff. Eli and Edward had a close relationship and several common bonds, including real estate, arts, education and philanthropy. Perhaps the most prominent bond they shared was being a Spartan. For me personally, having them side by side on campus at the ceremony was something I will never forget. Their combined support for the college has built a new home for business at MSU and forged a strong future with new educational opportunities for many generations of Spartans to come.
Beyond his financial support, Mr. Broad was also exceedingly generous with his time, and I had the good fortune of getting to know him well over the past decade. When his book was published and became a New York Times bestseller in 2012, he came to campus to join me in a fireside chat — with standing room only — and following, he autographed copies of his book for every single person in attendance. To this day, we provide a copy of The Art of Being Unreasonable to every incoming Broad MBA student.
When the Spartans won the Rose Bowl in 2014, I celebrated alongside Eli and Edythe. It was here that I had the opportunity to learn how their commitment to education was shaped by Edythe’s close relationship with the founder of Teach for America. This memory is particularly poignant as my daughter had just finished as a teacher in the program in Arizona. Since then, we have worked diligently to elevate Eli and Edythe’s efforts by recruiting students into our Broad MBA program who have participated in Teach for America.
Mr. Broad was also gracious enough to host the Broad College Advisory Board in Los Angeles in 2019, during which he shared his life’s philosophy and patiently answered every question from our board members. His values and actions, rooted in humility, kindness, persistence and originality, have made a lasting impact on MSU and our Broad College community.
At the Eli Broad College of Business and the Eli Broad Graduate School of Management, we are deeply committed to embodying his values in our curriculum and scholarship. We are greatly privileged and immensely proud to have Mr. Broad’s name as our calling card for every Spartan business graduate. And I am honored and humbled to have the opportunity to lead the college that bears his name as we carry out his incredible legacy.
Unreasonable and unforgettable: Eli Broad, you will always inspire Broad Spartans. We are forever in your debt and grateful for everything you did to make the world a better place.
Eli and Edythe L. Broad Dean
Broad College of Business