Sarasota couple donates $15 million to Ringling College, the largest single gift ever for the institution

Part of the money will be used for Ringling’s first endowed department chair in its virtual reality department

The homepage of the Ringling College website features this image among its banners. Image from the website

Ringling College of Art + Design has received its largest single gift and the first eight-figure gift since the institution was founded in 1931, it announced on Jan. 29.

Dr. Joel Morganroth, a member of the college’s board of trustees, and his wife, Dr. Gail Morrison Morganroth, donated $15 million to the college this week.

Both “visionaries and philanthropists,” a news release says, the Morganroths were looking to invest in a nonprofit organization in the community “that reflects and perpetuates their core values: strong leadership, forward thinking, fiscal responsibility, and a sense of morality and ethics.” The release continues, “But it wouldn’t be just any organization — education is of paramount importance to the couple. They found this all at Ringling College.”

“Right now, big and exciting things are happening at Ringling College,” Joel Morganroth said in the release. “To name a few, the college recently announced that it has begun enrolling students in the world’s first major in virtual reality leading to a Bachelor of Fine Arts. In addition, the college has one of the world’s best animation programs and the college is ranked as one of the six best art and design colleges,” he continued.

“But these things don’t happen on their own,” Morganroth pointed out. “It takes support to bring ideas to fruition and to turn vision into reality. We are so proud to be part of and look forward to supporting an organization on such a fast rise. We hope our gift will inspire others to join us in investing in the future of art and design, technology, education, and the Sarasota region.”

The donation will support a number of initiatives, including scholarships, current and future programming, the Sarasota Museum of Art, and the creation of the first endowed department head at Ringling College in its newest major, virtual reality development, the release explains.

“We wanted to make a significant contribution to something that we believe in,” noted Joel Morganroth in the release. “After only three years as a Ringling College trustee, I found that the organization we were looking for was right here.”

Dr. Joel Morganroth. Image from BioLucid

Joel Morganroth is a cardiologist who has been chief scientific officer of eResearch Technology since April 2006, according to Bloomberg. The company is based in Philadelphia.

The release pointed out that he was a founder of the firm, which is a global company working to ensure “the safety of new medical therapies.”

“Gail is an academic nephrologist,” the release continues. She has been vice dean for education at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania for more than 20 years.

The couple has lived in Sarasota since 2009, the release notes; they have a home on Siesta Key.

“The generosity of our board of trustees, and of Drs. Morganroth in particular, cannot be overstated,” said Stacey Corley, vice president for advancement at Ringling College, in the release. “Gifts of this magnitude are transformational and critical to the future of any organization, especially for those who strive to be leaders in their fields.”

Joel Morganroth added in the release, “Much of the inspiration for the gift came from Dr. Larry R. Thompson, soon to be entering his 20th year as president of the college. Over the last almost two decades, President Thompson has transformed the then-Ringling School of Art into the world-renowned Ringling College of Art and Design that it is today. Under his leadership, the college has expanded and progressed along multiple axes, including curriculum, enrollment, and capital building projects.”

“Art and design is about progress, creativity, change, and growth,” Thompson said in the release, “and Ringling College has been dedicated to educating and inspiring artists and designers from around the globe for over 86 years.” He added, “But that mission cannot be accomplished without the support and generosity of our friends.”