Largest TU alumni gift has wide-ranging benefit
Towson University alumnus Fran Soistman Jr. ’79 has been a proud Tiger for more than 40 years. In 2015 he received an honorary doctorate degree from TU that read, in part, "He approaches complex issues with the university’s best interests at heart—unfailingly thoughtful, inclusive and focused on the ultimate goal."
With a recent $5.4 million gift—the largest from an alumnus/a in TU history— Soistman, a nationally recognized expert and top executive in the health care management sector, has continued to demonstrate his boundless affection for his alma mater. His first gift to TU in the late 1980s was followed by many additional contributions totaling more than $600,000 in support of projects and initiatives across the institution.
"Over the past 30 years, I have had the pleasure of establishing multiple endowments and supporting a number of important initiatives at TU. Given the university’s strong momentum and significant opportunities to advance its ambitious vision, I thought that it was the right time to make a substantial commitment to TU’s future," he says. "I hope it inspires others to support the university. My goal is that a fellow alum will quickly follow my gift with an even larger gift."
President Kim Schatzel thanked Soistman for his generosity.
"Dr. Soistman’s gift is a remarkable extension of his legacy of generosity towards
his alma mater. With this gift, Fran will help ensure that the university continues
to attract talented students and provides enhanced resources to faculty and staff
to support outstanding world-class research, teaching, and student success," President
Kim Schatzel said. "His gift is historic, and Fran’s leadership over the years has
been extraordinary. And this gift further demonstrates that — as the largest gift
ever given to Towson University by an alum."
Soistman is the Founder and President of Healthcare Management & Transformation Advisory Services LLC. He retired as CVS Health-Aetna’s executive vice president and president of government services in 2019 after serving as Executive Vice President at Coventry Health Care and President and CEO at HealthAmerica.
Throughout his career, Soistman has remained strongly connected to TU. He has served on the Towson University Board of Visitors (BOV) since 2002 and as chair from 2016-18. He also served as a director on the TU Foundation – one of his earliest volunteer roles with the university.
His $5.4 million gift to TU will benefit athletics, the College of Health Professions, the College of Business & Economics and programming to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.
A more diverse and inclusive campus is one of President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for the university, and equity and inclusion at TU are key areas of interest for
Soistman as well.
"Our nation’s greatest strength is diversity, and inclusion happens to be one of our greatest challenges," Soistman says. "Higher education can play a major role in these conversations as it prepares graduates to lead in a global economy as part of a highly diverse workforce. A university education like TU graduates receive has the power to help our nation achieve its fullest potential."
Soistman and Schatzel discussed her goals for diversity, inclusion and engagement at TU and how additional support might seed more impactful conversations and better prepare students for long-term success. TU is one of a very few universities in the U.S. with zero achievement gap. At TU students find a learning environment that fosters achievement and academic success inclusive of race, ethnicity, religion, gender identity, sexual orientation and levels of able-ness.
"We truly value inclusion at TU. Our goal is when they are here, all our students thrive inclusively, and when they leave campus, TU graduates are prepared to lead and place diversity and inclusion as priorities in their personal and professional lives," President Schatzel said.
As a result, Soistman directed a portion of his historic gift to enhance the resources available to support the important work of diversity and inclusion at TU.
"TU’s commitment and track record of providing inclusive excellence for all its students truly sets it apart from all other national universities. This important work has great impact on TU students and they in turn can change the world when they graduate," Soistman said. "I am thrilled to be able to support these programs and initiatives and help ensure their ongoing success."
Soistman’s gift will also support a new Athletic Academic Achievement Center to benefit all TU athletes. He also plans to continue his past support of the men’s basketball, lacrosse and football teams.
The new facility, which will be located in the Field House, will accommodate more than 520 athletes and support on-site technology for project work, tutoring and academic advising. It further reinforces TU’s commitment to its athletes, who have been recognized with the highest graduation success rate of the Division I University System of Maryland institutions.
"Supporting student-athletes is a wise investment," says Soistman. "Employers and graduate schools know that student-athletes develop superior time management skills as well as the ability to effectively work in teams as part of their collegiate careers. They advance throughout their careers, many as entrepreneurs, because of their work ethic, competitive spirit, and discipline."
Leaders in the athletic department said the student-athlete experience will be drastically improved.
"Fran’s commitment to TU and the athletics department is unparalleled," says Tim Leonard, TU’s athletic director. "Fran has been very involved with the department for years and has a great understanding of our vision and mission. He believes in that mission and wants to ensure that our student-athletes continue to succeed in the classroom, the community and in competition. We cannot thank Fran enough for his generosity."
After spending most of his career in executive leadership positions in healthcare, it is appropriate that a portion of his gift will also support the construction of a new building for the College of Health Professions—a $173 million, 229,000 square foot home that will prepare students to become future health care leaders in Maryland and beyond.
"With the graying of America—the needs are only getting greater," he says. "The pandemic pointed out our vulnerability as a nation and woke us up to the importance of health professionals as frontline and essential workers. Our CHP students have been scattered over a 2-mile radius for decades. It’s important that we bring them all under one roof."
Soistman’s gift will also fully endow a wide range of scholarships in the College of Business & Economics, where he received his bachelor’s degree in accounting and finance, thus ensuring TU business students will reap the benefits of Soistman’s generosity annually.
"Business is the economic engine for Baltimore, the state of Maryland, and the entire region," Soistman notes. "We produce many talented graduates. We need to continue to invest in this area."
"I have learned a lot since I began my service to TU," Soistman says. "I see higher ed through a different lens today. I can see where the needs are—unfiltered."
He recognizes that every gift, even his first one of $25 to the TU Fund in 1989, has the power to impact the lives and careers of TU students. Soistman acknowledges that his gift won’t address all of TU’s needs but knows his gift will advance a number of the university’s strategic goals. Moreover, he hopes his gift inspires others to consider how they too might support the mission of TU.
This gift helps energize fundraising in 2020 after what has been consecutive years of record fundraising.
"Fran stepping forward is important and powerful for us," says Brian DeFilippis, vice president for University Advancement. "Our students always come first, and this record gift ensures that the important work of helping our students navigate the path to lifelong success will continue."
Gifts from you – our loyal alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff and friends – change lives every day. Your philanthropic support for Towson University and giving to the Towson University Foundation provides vital resources that allow our campus to thrive.
This story was updated on Dec. 22 to reflect an increased value for this gift, bringing Soistman's lifetime giving to his alma mater to $6 million.
This story is one of several related to President Kim Schatzel’s priorities for Towson University: TU Matters to Maryland, Diverse and Inclusive Campus, Culture of Philanthropy, Strategic Plan Alignment and TIGER Way.