$10 Million Gift to Expand Opportunities for Gatton College Students

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Dec. 13, 2022)— A transformative gift of $10 million will expand opportunities for students in the Gatton College of Business and Economics.

Emphasizing a commitment to students and their success, the gift from John Maze Stewart, founding partner of MiddleGround Capital, was approved by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees in today’s meeting.

“As a resident of Central Kentucky for nearly 40 years, I’m humbled by the opportunity that MiddleGround has provided for me to support the region with world class jobs in private equity,” Stewart said. “I’m also pleased to make this donation to the university on behalf of myself and my four children — to ultimately provide funding for programs and scholarships.”

Additionally, the board approved naming the finance department (John Maze Stewart Department of Finance and Quantitative Methods) in his honor.

“As Kentucky's university, we are made stronger by our people. With this generous gift, John Maze Stewart is helping us strengthen our foundation as we continue to educate our students and position them for success,” President Eli Capilouto said. “Because of John's gift, our students in Gatton College will have more access to scholarships and to critical professional and personal development opportunities. We are immensely grateful for people like John who believe in us — and in our precious mission to advance Kentucky." 

“It is thanks to the generosity of John Stewart that the Department of Finance and Quantitate Methods will be able to enhance the experience for finance majors here at the Gatton College of Business and Economics. We are extremely grateful this gift will serve as an excellent resource for scholarship opportunities for generations of students,” Dean Simon Sheather said. “In addition, this will provide faculty support and allow us to continue indefinitely our Wall Street Scholars program for Kentucky students to gain experience in investment banking and private equity.”

The gift will be used, in part, to create an endowed MiddleGround Scholarship, which will be awarded annually to a finance undergraduate or graduate student.

MiddleGround, a private equity firm headquartered in Lexington, Kentucky, invests in B2B companies in the industrial and specialty distribution sectors in the lower middle market in North America and Europe. 

Stewart started his career as an hourly line worker at Toyota Motor Corporation and held numerous management positions over an 18-year career. 

He made the move to private equity in 2007. Over the next 10 years, Stewart was progressively promoted throughout his prior organization and became a partner in 2016 before founding MiddleGround Capital. Throughout his career, he has worked on numerous transactions and served on the board of directors for more than 25 businesses across middle market and Fortune 100 companies.

Today, MiddleGround has offices in Lexington, New York and Amsterdam. They manage $4.5 billion worth of assets with 15 portfolio companies and 156 facilities on six of the world’s seven continents. 

“From the beginning, our partnership with the university has been a source of inspiration and motivation for the team at MiddleGround,” Stewart said. “Today, we employ 19 UK graduates and have 42 employees from Central Kentucky working at the firm. We are showing people all over the world how remarkable and talented the people of the Commonwealth are.”

Additionally, the Wall Street Scholars program will receive $3 million toward student scholarships.

The program offers a signature experience to a small cohort of students, which includes advanced academic curriculum and high-impact learning, complemented by co-curriculum education and development in soft skills. The goal is to better prepare students be successful in investment banking, asset management, private wealth management, consulting and corporate finance leadership programs.

The University of Kentucky is increasingly the first choice for students, faculty and staff to pursue their passions and their professional goals. In the last two years, Forbes has named UK among the best employers for diversity, and INSIGHT into Diversity recognized us as a Diversity Champion four years running. UK is ranked among the top 30 campuses in the nation for LGBTQ* inclusion and safety. UK has been judged a “Great College to Work for" three years in a row, and UK is among only 22 universities in the country on Forbes' list of "America's Best Employers."  We are ranked among the top 10 percent of public institutions for research expenditures — a tangible symbol of our breadth and depth as a university focused on discovery that changes lives and communities. And our patients know and appreciate the fact that UK HealthCare has been named the state’s top hospital for five straight years. Accolades and honors are great. But they are more important for what they represent: the idea that creating a community of belonging and commitment to excellence is how we honor our mission to be not simply the University of Kentucky, but the University for Kentucky.