Photo by Andrew Campbell
Photo courtesy of Athletics Media Services.
Gleacher's Gift of Golf — Year-Round
In Evanston, Northwestern golfers trudge through subzero weather to an indoor practice facility, braving blustery winds and swirling snow to beat balls tirelessly into a nylon net. Some might call this a deterrent. But at Northwestern it only adds to the team's mystique.
Alumnus and former team member Eric J. Gleacher (WCAS62) donated $6.1 million in April 1998 to build a cutting-edge indoor practice facility and to cover the operating costs of the golf program. It was one of the largest donations in the history of collegiate golf.
Hidden inside Patten Gymnasium, the Gleacher Golf Center provides the complete practice grounds, with subtle breaks in the synthetic sand-packed putting green, a full-size lip in the crushed quartz sand bunker and a state-of-the-art digital video system to analyze golf swings in slow motion.
But perhaps more important, the Gleacher Center provides the Northwestern golfers with the opportunity to work on their golf games in a controlled environment — 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year-round — so they can compete against and beat the top college teams in the country.
"The Gleacher Center is all about trying to attain excellence," Gleacher says. "It's not for recreation or entertainment purposes. This is about winning Big Tens and NCAAs."
As a transfer student from Western Illinois University in 1959, Gleacher turned to Northwestern for a top-notch education and the chance to play Division I golf.
An outstanding golfer in his own right, he co-captained the golf team his senior year and was a member of the East NCAA All-Star Team. He later enrolled at the University of Chicago School of Business, where he earned his master's in business administration in finance in 1967.
After founding the mergers and acquisitions department at Lehman Brothers in 1978 and then working his way up to partner at Morgan Stanley in 1983, Gleacher started his own investment banking firm, Gleacher Partners LLC.
The 1998 gift to Northwestern was not Gleacher's first, but it was his largest. He also helped finance an indoor facility at McGaw Hall with former teammate Gary Levering (WCAS62).
The Gleacher Center has been such an asset that Northwestern All-American and PGA Tour-winner Luke Donald (WCAS01) keeps his home in Evanston and practices there frequently.
"Eric Gleacher's donation helped our golf program enormously," says Donald. "I find the Gleacher Center to be a great spot to work on my game not only during the winter months, but year-round, too."
Gleacher is also committed to recruiting the best young talent. As a referee at the U.S. Amateur at Oak Hill in 1998, Gleacher spotted a 17-year-old up-and-coming golfer named Tom Johnson. He immediately told Goss about this young talent. Today Johnson is a communication studies major at Northwestern and has been ranked as high as second in the nation.
"Mr. Gleacher has been extremely instrumental in the recent success of our program," Northwestern coach Pat Goss (WCAS93) says.
In 1999 Gleacher was presented with the Rolex Achievement Award, an honor given to former collegiate golfers who have achieved excellence in a profession outside golf.
In April the Northwestern Alumni Association bestowed upon Gleacher its highest honor, the Alumni Medal, at its annual awards.
"It is a great pleasure to give back to the institution that helped me get where I am today," says Gleacher. "Northwestern changed my life."