By Jodi S. Cohen
9:25 AM PST, January 28, 2013
University of Illinois officials today announced the largest gift ever to its prestigious College of Engineering, a $100-million donation that will fund student scholarships and allow the school to hire dozens of top faculty.
The gift from the Lake Forest-based Grainger Foundation is being made in memory of William W. Grainger, a 1919 graduate of U. of I.'s program in electrical engineering who went on to found W.W. Grainger, Inc., a leading distributor of tools and other electrical equipment.
"This will impact the whole college and the campus and the university," said interim engineering dean Michael Bragg.
The Grainger Foundation has long supported the U. of I., including more than $18 million to build the Grainger Library, the school's engineering library. The low-profile philanthropic arm of the Grainger company typically does not comment on its gifts, though it has funded projects at universities, hospitals such as Rush University Medical Center, and the Field Museum.
The latest gift will provide scholarships to hundreds of engineering students a year, ranging from a few thousand dollars to full tuition scholarships. Undergraduate tuition to the engineering school is more than $16,000 a year.
"We just aren't able to provide scholarships for some of the outstanding students in Illinois who would like to come here," said interim engineering Dean Michael Bragg. "Being able to provide several hundred additional scholarships in engineering will really be able to help."
It also will help the university lure the best engineering faculty from around the world as it looks to hire 130 to 150 new faculty members in the next five years. About $40 million of the gift will fund endowed chairs and professors in the college. The money will supplement the faculty member's base salaries and provide them with money for equipment, research and travel.
Some of the money also will be used to renovate Everitt Laboratory, which houses the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.
U. of I.'s College of Engineering has about 10,000 students and its undergraduate and graduate programs are ranked No. 5 in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
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