$100 Million Pledge to College of Engineering at the University of Illinois

1/28/2013 12:39:00 PM

Donation to Establish Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Chancellor Phyllis Wise announced today that The Grainger Foundation, Lake Forest, Illinois, has pledged $100 million to support the College of Engineering through establishment of the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative. The contribution is made in memory and honor of William W. Grainger, a 1919 Illinois graduate in Electrical Engineering, and the founder of W.W. Grainger, Inc.  

Dr. Wise said, “We are tremendously grateful for this extraordinary gift from The Grainger Foundation, which is an investment in the future of engineering, the future of our engineering faculty and students, and, indeed, an investment in the campus as a whole. This transformative gift will ensure a chain reaction of possibilities that will fortify the campus as a preeminent, globally-recognized institution.”

The Grainger Foundation, a long-term benefactor of the College of Engineering at Illinois, has made this pledge to ensure the continued global standing of the engineering program at Illinois by providing the support and infrastructure necessary for Illinois to lead the most important engineering breakthroughs of the future. With this generous support, the College is well-poised to continue its national leadership and enhance its global reach far into the future.

University of Illinois President Bob Easter said, “Thanks to the immense generosity of The Grainger Foundation, and its investment in the College of Engineering at Illinois, the University of Illinois can achieve its ambitious and bold program of knowledge production and excellence in education that will foster innovation to address the critical societal issues of today, and future grand challenges for generations to come.”

The resources from the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative will be used as support for the faculty, students, and facilities of the College of Engineering at Illinois. It will also allow the College of Engineering to consistently and repeatedly create new engineering breakthroughs by investing in research areas of transformative impact to society and to attract and educate the engineering leaders of tomorrow. 

Alma hands
Alma hands

Interim Engineering Dean Michael Bragg said, “On behalf of the College of Engineering, I express heartfelt thanks to The Grainger Foundation for its long-standing support of the College of Engineering at Illinois. Its commitments to the excellence of our programs over the past decades have contributed greatly to our accomplishments and ongoing excellence. With support from the Grainger Engineering Breakthroughs Initiative, the future of the College of Engineering at Illinois is bright indeed.”

A substantial portion of the Grainger Foundation gift will create an endowment for engineering chairs and professorships to attract and retain renowned scholars to lead the College’s thrust for groundbreaking impact and international stature in the next wave of engineering research and education. The gift will also create an endowment to provide broad research support for high impact engineering research collaborations. Bioengineering and “Big Data” are two prime areas targeted to receive significant resources for new faculty positions and research support.

A portion of this gift will also provide the leadership gift to launch a $100-million fundraising campaign for an endowment for scholarships for students in the College of Engineering, and provide another lead gift for the $40 million renovation of the soon-to-be-vacated Everitt Laboratory building on the engineering campus. The increased scholarship funds resulting from the new endowment will strengthen the College’s ability to attract and retain the most exceptional engineering students. Everitt Laboratory, which currently houses the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, will be renovated to meet the needs for state-of-the-art facilities for engineering instructional laboratories, new engineering research centers, and the Department of Bioengineering at Illinois.

Provost Ilesanmi Adesida remarked, “This generous donation from The Grainger Foundation will strengthen the College of Engineering’s ability to maintain its legacy of groundbreaking accomplishments and remarkable new discoveries that change the world and enrich the lives of people everywhere. We are certain that this very generous gift to the College of Engineering at Illinois will have broad impact across all of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and beyond.”

About The Grainger Foundation and William Wallace Grainger

The Grainger Foundation, an independent, private foundation, located in Lake Forest, Illinois, was established in 1949 by William Wallace 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, President and Director since 1979.

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 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.

Inquiries: All inquiries about this gift should be addressed to Robin Kaler, Associate Chancellor for Public Affairs, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 217/333-5010.