Pam and Les Muma are the biggest individual donors to the University of South Florida. The retired executives say they prefer to spend their money now, so they can 'enjoy it and direct it.'
Executives: Pam and Les Muma
Organization: University of South Florida, Tampa General Hospital
Giveback: The Mumas have donated $41.2 million to the university. They have also donated $6 million to Tampa General Hospital.
Mission: Support education and health causes
Pam and Les Muma remember the University of South Florida when it was just eight buildings, six dorms, no trees and lots of sandspurs.
Since graduating in the late '60s, the campus has completely transformed, and partial credit is due to the Mumas, who have donated $42.1 million to the university.
Les Muma, former CEO of Fiserv Inc., a financial services automation company he co-founded in 1984, says the USF College of Business was the platform on which his career was built. But that's not the only reason he loves the university — it's also because it's where he and his wife, Pam, met and fell in love.
Les admits he has a special nostalgia for the university, but he's even more excited about the direction it is going. “It's a rocket ship about ready to take off,” he says.
In October, the Mumas donated $25 million to the business school, which was renamed the USF Muma College of Business. The couple says they were impressed with the school's dean, Moez Limayem, and his efforts to become an elite business school. “We see the fire in his belly and his vision,” Les says. “His goal is to have every student entering guaranteed a job when they graduate.”
The $25 million donation was the biggest single donation in the school's history, and the Mumas are now the university's top benefactors. Not a cent will go to brick and mortar; rather, the money will go to funding staff and professors and to creating a new professional development track for all students.
“This gift to the business school is a transformational one,” Limayem says. “It elevates USF into the top tier of business schools, one where donors so strongly believe in the mission and vision of the business school that they are willing to invest in it in a substantial and transformative way.”
The business school added one more building on campus to be named after the couple, following the Pam and Les Muma Basketball Center, Muma Chair of Neonatology, and Lisa Muma Weitz Cell Laboratory.
The Mumas were not always focused on donating to the university. In fact, it didn't really cross their minds during their time in Wisconsin, when Les was working with Fiserv. But when Dick Bowers, a former USF golf coach who moved to the development office, recognized their names, he decided to give them a call. Pam says she remembered him as the physical education instructor whom she begged not to give her a bad grade for being tardy to class. “He knew we still had a home in Florida,” Pam says, so he asked if the couple would come visit campus on their next trip down. “He re-engaged us with USF,” Les adds.
At the time, the couple was sponsoring minority scholarships at the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. Bower asked them: “Why would you have scholarships at a university that's not your alma mater?”
It didn't take much persuading for the Mumas. They decided to set up a four-year full-ride scholarship to the USF business school, with a new scholar each year. They've seen 18-20 students graduate.
“It's the only full-ride scholarship in the business school,” Les says, “It covers everything except beer.”
Health and Children
Asked why they've donated so much to the university, the couple insists “all philanthropists have a sweet spot.” The Mumas say theirs is health and children.
“We have a moral obligation to give back,” Les says. “It doesn't matter how much you have. You can give back time, talent or treasure.”
Giving wasn't necessarily something they were raised to do, according to the couple. Les says his parents didn't have the means to be philanthropic. Pam was really the one who brought service into the household. When the couple's daughter was young, they decided that motherhood was the most important job for Pam, but as she admits, “I'm not one to just sit still.” So while Les was working 70 hours a week, she became involved in Junior League, American Cancer Society, the Lighthouse for the Blind and more.
“Philanthropy is not something you can learn,” Les says. “It's not taught, but caught. You learn to give by watching other people give.”
Though the couple has made numerous smaller gifts throughout the years, “the big money is where your heart is,” Les admits. The couple's first major gift of $1 million came in 1998 to build a neonatal intensive care unit at Children's Hospital in Wisconsin.
“It was terrifying to say, 'What in the hell did we just do?” Les admits. But the couple didn't regret signing away the money. The gift was a personal one, for they lost a daughter delivered at Tampa General Hospital, Jennifer.
The couple decided to donate the money to help renovate the Wisconsin hospital's NICU to make it state of the art, rather than put the money aside for after they die. “We wanted to see it come to fruition,” Pam says.
At first, they donated anonymously, but about a year later the hospital asked if the Mumas would let it announce their identity to spur other major contributions. Pam has now worked in fundraising for 30 years, and she knows, “it's hard to ask other people to give if you haven't given a large gift.”
The couple's favorite gift, however, was a $6 million donation to Tampa General and USF Health. Of that, $3 million went to Tampa General to build a neonatal intensive care facility named after the daughter who died. “It was a dream to do that NICU,” Pam says. “She's living on through that legacy.”
As honorary chair of that campaign, the Mumas asked several good friends to donate. One of the friends who donated recently had a granddaughter born three months premature, who was able to receive care in the Jennifer Leigh Muma Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. “This time it came back and benefited the benefactors,” Les says.
Pam and Les both love to see their donations grow and go to use. “The giver gets as big of a jolt positively as those receiving it,” according to Les.
They believe that those who have money to donate should “give it away while you're here so you can enjoy it and direct it,” Les says. “You can't take it with you. You never see a hearse with a U-Haul.”