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Couple’s ties to NM kept alive with gifts

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Giving back seems to be an ongoing theme for native New Mexicans Ian and Sonnet McKinnon.

This month, the couple helped celebrate the opening of a building that bears their name at the UNM Anderson School: the McKinnon Center for Management. Their donation of $5 million was pivotal to jump-starting plans to build a new business school. And 18 months later, the brand-new, $24.4 million facility is, well, open for business.

The McKinnon Center is a major milestone in the history of the Anderson School, said Dean Craig White. “The investment by Ian and Sonnet McKinnon will have a significant impact on our students for years to come.”

The McKinnons’ philanthropy didn’t stop with Anderson. They’ve also gifted UNM another $2.5 million, which benefited the Pit and the school’s tennis complex.

The couple, who moved to Connecticut nearly 20 years ago but still consider New Mexico home, had been considering making a large donation to UNM for some time, a school from which many of their family members graduated.

When Ian, an investment banker and founding partner of Sandia Holdings, was a guest lecturer at the old Anderson School five years ago, he was struck by the cramped and dated layout and “difficult” acoustics in what was then the school’s auditorium. Ian thought the students and faculty at the state’s flagship business school deserved better and would benefit from a new state-of the art building – with larger classrooms, collaborative spaces, an ample lecture hall to host guest speakers and entrepreneurs in residence, and the most up-to-date IT services.

“It was all (looking) pretty obsolete,” said Ian, a graduate of Albuquerque Academy, who has done well in the business world. The couple said they are committed to sharing their good fortune with causes they believe in.

As the McKinnon Center plans took shape, Ian talked with several business students about what they would like to see in a new facility. “Make it the coolest place on campus and a place we would like to hang out in,” Ian remembers them saying.

“We knew we wanted to do something (to help), and the dean had some great ideas,” said Sonnet, who was five grades behind Ian at the academy and graduated from UNM Anderson in 1993. Sonnet, who is the daughter of Kaysie and Don Goodenough, formed a manufacturing company with her father building wine and beer tanks and brewing systems for commercial beer producers worldwide after graduating.

In addition to the UNM gift, the McKinnons also gave $10 million to Albuquerque Academy in 2013.

A former managing partner of Ziff Brothers Investments in New York City, Ian is the son of Karen McKinnon Stibolt who earned her BA and MA at UNM, and the late Daniel A. McKinnon III, a former New Mexico Supreme Court justice who received his BS from UNM.

“Even though I didn’t go there, I feel like an honorary Lobo,” said Ian, who was scheduled to give the keynote address at UNM’s spring commencement Saturday.

The McKinnons said their goal is for UNM business students to advance academically and in the rest of their lives. “Our hope is that the school continues to be a great business school, and produces graduates who make a difference,” Ian said. “Not just in the business world, but in other ways as well.”

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