Students criticize largest donation made in SHU history

Patrick Murray, chair of the Board of Regents and a Seton Hall alum, along with his wife, Mary Ann Pfaff Murray, have made a $5 million donation to Seton Hall University, the largest single donation in university history.

The Murrays’ donation will be used to establish merit and needbased scholarships for students, to fund a faculty chair in the Stillman School of Business and to fund renovations to athletic facilities.

“We are particularly grateful for the gifts that come from alumni, as these gifts represent for many a
way to ‘pay it forward’ from the support that they received when they were students,” David Bohan, vice president for University Advancement, wrote in an email.

Some students say that they are grateful for the donation that the Murrays have made to the university, but they are disappointed that a portion of the funds will be used to renovate athletic facilities.

Angelo Piro, a senior international relations and economics major, started the petition ‘Seton Hall: Invest in Students not Sports.’

“While the Seton Hall community is thankful for the Murrays’ generosity, we ask that the administration invest in what makes SHU truly great, its students,” the petition stated. “Instead of investing more money in the athletic facilities and programs, Seton Hall should work to improve student services and facilities.”

As of noon on April 13, the petition had 229 signatures, nearly half of its goal of 500. “I started the petition because, as a senior, I’ve seen where Seton Hall has chosen to put their emphasis,” Piro wrote in an email. “They have done some great things since I’ve been here, like the work on Aquinas and supporting the new centers at the School of Diplomacy, but a lot of work has gone to building up our athletic programs.”

Piro said that the school needs “a shift of priorities.”

Breanna O’Neal, a sophomore psychology major, stated that she signed the petition because the university “tends to take advantage of the students complacency.”

“We have a brand new rec center,” O’Neal said. “The baseball and softball fields look immaculate. The basketball team is always sporting the newest stuff. If you look at the rest of the campus and then look at what benefits the athletes, there’s such a disjunction that it’s incredible.”

“I hope the outcome (of the petition) is that the administration recognizes what the students want: better services, facilities and funds for all students,” Piro said. “The current plan for the Murrays’ donation has some great ideas, including new scholarships and a new faculty chair, but spending even more money on the athletic program should be left out as the benefit isn’t felt by everyone.”

“Mr. Murray sets a great example for us all through his most generous gift to the University,” Bohan said in response to the petition. “He has chosen to support areas on campus for which he has a particular passion, and serve to fund critical areas of need, including his key support of scholarships for students and resources for faculty. The portion of his gift supporting athletics has helped make possible the Department’s annual Leadership Forum, which is designed to give student-athletes an opportunity to network with distinguished professionals and have career-oriented discussions. His gift will have long-lasting impact across campus. I just hope that the petition does not dissuade others from providing much needed philanthropic support of the university.”

“I realize that the Murrays can choose where their donations go and this is likely unable to change, but the administration should know where the student, alumni and friends of SHU want the University to go,” Piro said.

Bohan said that Seton Hall is expected to receive about $20 million in monetary donations from donors this fiscal year, ranging from gifts of $50 or $100 to larger gifts like the $5 million donation from Mr. and Mrs. Murray.

He also stated that over half of the donations that the university has received this year have gone to student financial aid and scholarships.

Ashley Turner can be reached at

Author: Ashley Turner

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  1. I would just like Mr. Piro to know that this two-time Seton Hall alum is absolutely thrilled that part of Mr. & Mrs. Murray’s generous donation will be used for athletic facilities! Our student athletes deserve nothing but the absolute best! How better to reward and thank these students for their countless hours spent practicing, studying and representing Seton Hall than to provide them with some of the best facilities in the country?

    Does Mr. Piro realize how much free advertising we received because of the recent success of both our men’s and women’s basketball teams? That success on the court, especially the men’s Big East Tournament Championship, had Seton Hall front and center on the news and the sports channels nationally for over a week. You cannot buy that kind of exposure! This kind of exposure helps get Seton Hall’s name out there and translates into more applications which increases the university’s selectivity and raises the test scores and GPA’s of the incoming class. Success on the court and well as in other areas of play also has proud alums more willing and eager to open up their checkbooks with donations that go to support not only athletics but academics as well.

    Mr. Piro needs to realize that what is near and dear to his heart may not be near and dear to the hearts of other fans, friends and alumni who donate. He should not try to speak for the rest of us.

    I was not a student athlete in college but am both a proud, loyal supporter of Pirate Blue and season ticket holder for over 25 years. If I even have the type of means that Mr. and Mrs. Murray have I too would be donating to our athletic department.

    I am thankful for the support the Murray’s are providing to all of the students of Seton Hall. It is their money to do what they wish and I am grateful that supporting our alma mater is a priority for them.

    My hope, like David Bohan’s in the article, is that Mr. Piro and his misguided petition do not dissuade others from donating much needed funds to the university.

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    • I don’t think it is necessary to patronize Mr. Piro. We understand that the success of the basketball teams has been beneficial for the university, but the athletes do not represent the entire Seton Hall community. The athletic center has been renovated each of the four years that I’ve been at Seton Hall. Meanwhile, other buildings and departments do not receive the same attention and care. While our athletics department is something we have to be proud of, we should be just as proud of our academics and student success. You may think that Mr. Piro “needs to realize that what is near and dear to his heart may not be near and dear to the hearts of other fans, friends and alumni who donate”, but it’s not only what is important to him. It is important to many of the students who are here today. You condescendingly call the petition misguided, but I think you are really missing the point. We don’t want Seton Hall to continue disproportionately funding the athletics department. We want to see that Seton Hall is interested in representing student interests and preparing its students to be successful after graduation. We want Seton Hall to hear our concerns and truly take them into consideration. I hope alumni donors don’t only consider funding our athletic department, but also the programs they were a part of that helped shape the people they have become.

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  2. Unfortunately, as someone who works in the nonprofit sector, this isn’t how fundraising works. Some donors give and leave the money to the discretion of the institution, but if a donor gives money and designates for specific causes, the institution is beholden to honor those designations if they accept the gift. Since Seton Hall’s already accepted the gift, the terms are set. I graduated for SHU and would like to see that portion of the money go elsewhere as well, but it’s the donor who sets the parameters, not the university. And to be honest, Seton Hall would have been crazy to turn a donation like this down for any reason.

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  3. I think what Angelo is missing here, and I think he makes a coherent point, is that what benefits athletics DOES benefit all students. The rec center as you know it, Aquinas, Xavier, Neumann, and Cabrini Halls did not exist before the basketball success of 1989. Seton Hall, once a regional, largely commuter school, has become a national University, in no small part due to its affiliation with the Big East, and high-major athletics.

    Our beloved alma mater received a $3mil share of the TV proceeds from this year’s NCAA tournament. A medical school is slated for 2017; you mentioned the new schools and programs already up and running, and a long-awaited new student center (it was dated when I walked the Halls) will soon break ground. Good things are happening!

    The Murrays’ generous gift will benefit GENERATIONS of Seton Hall students, and I, for one, am in awe of their generosity.

    Please do keep alive the conversation of where Seton Hall could be providing a better experience, for students and alumni — it’s how growth occurs. Better still, when you graduate, direct your donations where you feel they are most needed.

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