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University of Illinois receives ‘gift of passion’

/ Source: The Associated Press

A University of Illinois alumnus announced he will make a $100 million donation to his alma mater, the largest gift in the university’s history.

Thomas M. Siebel, the founder and former chairman of Siebel Systems Inc., pledged to give the gift to the Urbana-Champaign campus upon his death.

“It’s the most exciting thing to happen at this university in terms of philanthropy,” Urbana-Champaign chancellor Richard Herman said. “It’s a gift of passion, one that will mean transformation for us.”

Herman said the 54-year-old billionaire software mogul “has a sense of urgency about helping us attain excellence” and is open to the possibility of providing money sooner. He said a task force of faculty members will brainstorm ideas for Siebel to consider funding before his death.

Herman said he envisions professorships, research grants and new buildings incorporating ideas of energy and sustainability. Those topics interest Siebel, one of Forbes magazine’s 400 richest Americans who has already given millions to the university.

University of Illinois announced the gift just days after the University of Chicago announced a $100 million anonymous donation to be used for scholarships for lower-income students.

In 1999, Siebel, a 1975 University of Illinois graduate who later earned two master’s degrees from the school, donated $32 million toward the construction of a new computer science building.

“He’s a man who has over many years engaged in helping us,” Herman said.

The university’s largest previous gift was $40 million, given in 1985 by alumnus Arnold Beckman to create a science and technology institute.