The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign just received its biggest donation ever: A Chicago entrepreneur and his wife wrote a $150 million check for its business school.
Larry Gies, the founder and CEO of Chicago-based holding company, Madison Industries, and his wife, Beth Gies – both U of I graduates – are behind the generous gift. The money will be put toward scholarships, student programs, faculty recruitment and retention.
"All of this money is being invested in students and the faculty and staff that help make this place great," said Jeffrey Brown, dean of the newly renamed Gies College of Business. "It's been decades in the making because Larry really attributes his success to his time here as a student."
Gies, 51, tends to keep a low profile and did not seek naming rights for the college, but due to the size of the gift the school felt it was appropriate.
Since graduating, Gies has returned to teach classes nearly every semester. He founded Madison Industries in 1994, and, today, the company's portfolio of businesses collectively has approximately $5 billion in revenue. In addition, he leads the Gies Foundation, which focuses on youth, education and health.
"We are honored to give back to the college that gave so much to us and I hope our choice to make a decisive investment encourages others to do the same," Gie said in a statement.
The business school has about 5,100 students – 3,100 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students – as well as 800 enrolled in the school's two-year online program.
"It's not about bricks and mortar; it's about those things that really transform the learning experience, inside and outside the classroom," U of I Chancellor Robert Jones said of the Gies donation.