J. Mack Robinson, a humble philanthropist

When deceased philanthropist and Atlanta businessman J. Mack Robinson worked in the Candler Building across the street from the current College of Business, he used to look out the window of his office and think about the potential within the property.

“I don’t think you could have a better location than near the Candler building. I thought I would love it to become part of Georgia State,” Robinson said in an interview with the Atlanta-Journal Constitution.

J, Mack Robinson passed away at 90 years old on February 7, 2014.

Robinson briefly attended Georgia State, then called the Georgia Evening College, before he served in the United States military.

After Robinson gave Georgia State’s business school a $10 million grant in 1998, the school was named after him as the J. Mack Robinson College of Business— which is now located right where he believed it should be.

“It’s very humbling for Mack to have his name on one of the most important buildings downtown. I think Mack is prouder of [his involvement with the GSU business school] than anything he’s ever done,” Nita Robinson, wife of J. Mack Robinson, said in an interview with SaportaReport.

Robinson started his business career at the age of 10 when he got his first job with the Atlanta Journal as a “helper.”

After he returned from serving in WWII, he started to open up used car lots in Atlanta. This investment spread throughout Georgia to towns like Columbus and Macon.

Selling cars was just the beginning of Robinson’s business ventures as he moved away from used cars and into finance and insurance.

His businesses grew and he was soon able to help other businesses get their start.

One of the most noteworthy experiences was when Robinson wrote fashion designer Yves Saint Laurent a check from his personal banking account, which helped the designer launch his fashion company.

Robinson valued education and he continued to show his support by donating large amounts to the Westminster School and Oglethorpe University.

Not only did Robinson give generously to businesses and schools but he also supported individual students at Georgia State.

Winifred Akande, an intern with the College of Business in 2009, personally experienced Robinson’s generosity.

According to the GSU Magazine, the Robinsons helped fund Akande’s study abroad trip to South Africa.

“How can I put into words how much their gift meant? These people are so lofty and high up. What do I have in common with them?” Akande said.

“His personality has remained unchanged as he built an empire in the intangibles people needed, like credit and insurance. Even as his business ramped up internationally, his gentle nature and easy Southern drawl did not waver,” the GSU Magazine said in their summer 2011 feature of Mr. Robinson.

Current students at the College of Business accredit him for his generous support of Georgia State.

“He is giving us the opportunity to learn about business,” Melvin Contreras, a junior business major, said.

The Georgia Chapter of the National Society of Fundraising Executives also recognized Robinson’s philanthropy work, and in 1994, they honored the Robinsons with the title Philanthropist of the Year.

“When you name a college or building after someone, you hope that person will inspire others toward philanthropy,” former Georgia State President Carl S. Patton said in an interview with GSU Magazine regarding the decision to name the college of business after Robinson.


His spirit of philanthropy is still alive among the current students of the J. Mack Robinson College of Business.

“If I am lucky enough to be successful, I definitely want to give back to Georgia State as well,” Chris Kuhstoss, a junior business major, said.

Nicole Williams, a junior business major, said she has heard countless stories of the College of Business’s alum giving back to Georgia State.

“A lot of graduate students that are successful in the area, when they come back, they always try to give back and help us out,” she said.

President Mark Becker acknowledged Robinson’s contributions to Georgia State.

“J. Mack Robinson’s legacy can be seen across the business school and beyond. Georgia State is a better institution for its connection to J. Mack. His dedication to his family and philanthropy should serve as a model to us all. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Robinson family,” President Becker said.

Robinson’s life has inspired many others, and through it all, he continued to have a humble character.

“I didn’t do anything big or important. I’m just a hard-working person from Georgia,” Robinson told President Mark Becker at a lunch, according to GSU Magazine in 2011.