Illinois Engineering is now The Grainger College of Engineering

Recognizing more than $300 million in support

Written by Bill Bell

The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s College of Engineering has become The Grainger College of Engineering, recognizing a new $100 million gift from The Grainger Foundation and more than $300 million in total support, after consultation with the Chancellor’s Joint Advisory Committee on Investment, Licensing, and Naming Rights and with approval by the University of Illinois Board of Trustees.

The Grainger Foundation’s total support represents the largest amount ever given to a public university to name a college of engineering, with more than $200 million provided in the last six years.

The college has been named in recognition of the contributions of The Grainger Foundation to the excellence of the college and in honor of distinguished alumnus William W. Grainger.



William W. Grainger graduated from the university’s electrical engineering program in 1919 and founded the industrial supply company W. W. Grainger, Inc. in 1927. Grainger is an Illinois-based Fortune 500 company with more than 25,000 employees worldwide.

As part of the naming, The Grainger Foundation will provide the additional $100 million unrestricted gift to the college’s endowment, building upon its past, significant foundational support for even greater impact during the college and university’s ambitious With Illinois campaign and beyond.

“What an anniversary! One hundred years after William W. Grainger graduated from our college, his impact is still felt. We are forever grateful,” Rashid Bashir, dean of The Grainger College of Engineering, said.

“Very few colleges have seen this kind of long-term, flexible support. We are proud to be one of them, and it will allow our research enterprise and educational programs to flourish. It will also allow us to recruit, reward, and retain the very best faculty with more and larger faculty chairs and professorships.”

In addition, The Grainger Foundation is currently matching all gifts to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative for undergraduates—dollar-for-dollar, up to $25 million. The Grainger Matching Challenge was established in 2017 and runs through the end of 2019.


Redefining our next 150 years

The new $100 million gift from The Grainger Foundation is part of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign’s With Illinois $2.25 billion capital campaign. The Grainger College of Engineering’s goal for the campaign is $550 million, of which almost 85 percent has been raised. This momentum is redefining The Grainger College of Engineering, its student body, its faculty, and the global impact of its research.

We do the impossible every day, and we’re going to continue for the next 150 years.

Here are some of the other projects and initiatives that are currently under way:

  • More than $80 million raised in support of the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative.
  • A complete renovation and 25,000 square foot addition to the Mechanical Engineering Building with tremendous support from alumnus Sidney Lu.
  • The construction of the Siebel Center for Design.
  • Construction of the Campus Instructional Facility.
  • Expansion and renovation of the Hydrosystems Lab, Newmark Lab, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering’s new Smart Bridge.

The new $100 million gift will be very flexible on how its proceeds can be used and what programs it will support long-term.

“We couldn’t appreciate The Grainger Foundation’s trust in us more,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “They believe in our powerful vision, and they’ve invested in it aggressively – supporting people, programs, and facilities. We recently celebrated our first 150 years, and this gift will redefine our next 150.”

“All of us here at The Grainger Foundation are delighted that this gift will further strengthen one of the most distinguished engineering schools in the world,” said David W. Grainger, chairman of The Grainger Foundation.

“To start, we will make big investments in our research enterprise—in the faculty who drive it and the students who learn so much from it. But we know that engineering will change. We will anticipate and lead this change as we always have. In the decades to come, future leadership of The Grainger College of Engineering will be in a great position to shift priorities as necessary and grab new opportunities,” Bashir said.

The Grainger Foundation began providing support to The Grainger College of Engineering’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering in 1979. Including the new gift, The Grainger Foundation has committed more than $300 million toward numerous projects, including:

  • The Grainger Center for Electric Machinery and Electromechanics
  • The Grainger Chair in Electrical Engineering
  • The Grainger Power Engineering Awards
  • The Grainger Library and Information Center
  • The redesign of the Bardeen Quad
  • The remodel of Engineering Hall
  • The new Electrical and Computer Engineering Building
  • The Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative, which included $100 million in support of research, undergraduate scholarships, the renovation of Everitt Lab for the bioengineering department, and faculty chairs and professorships
  • The Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative



About The Grainger Foundation and William W. Grainger

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William W. Grainger, founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc., North America’s leading broad line supplier of maintenance, repair, and operating products. Since its founding, the Foundation has provided substantive support to a broad range of organizations including museums and educational, medical, and human services institutions. Today, the Foundation is guided by the leadership of David W. Grainger, Chairman and Director.

William W. Grainger founded W.W. Grainger, Inc. in 1927 and was its President until he retired from active management in 1968. He served as a Director from 1927 until his death in October 1982 at the age of 87.

Born in Chicago, Mr. Grainger graduated from Crane Junior College in Electrical Engineering in 1916 and entered the University of Illinois as a junior. In 1917 his academic career was interrupted by military service as a Chief Petty Officer in the Navy during World War I. Mr. Grainger reentered the University of Illinois and graduated in June 1919 with a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering. During World War II, Mr. Grainger served with the War Production Board as a Dollar-A-Year executive.

Mr. Grainger first worked as a designer of electric motors, and early in his career he recognized the need for the independent distribution of electric motors at the wholesale level in the United States. It was this foresight that led Mr. Grainger to establish his company in 1927. His vitality and leadership established the framework and nurtured the continued growth of W.W. Grainger, Inc. for more than 55 years.