Sept. 26, 2002
Vol. 22 No. 1

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    Entrepreneur, Alumnus Polsky to give GSB $7 million gift

    Michael Polsky, an entrepreneur in the private energy business, has given $7 million to the University’s Graduate School of Business to create the Michael Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship.

    “The Graduate School of Business at the University has been very beneficial for me,” said Polsky, a 1987 graduate of the school. “Your chances for success increase exponentially when you have all the training and skills you need,” he said. “And my M.B.A. from Chicago GSB has given me a complete package as an entrepreneur.”

    “This generous gift will enable us to offer students more of the latest research from top faculty and more opportunities for hands-on experience in entrepreneurship,” said Edward Snyder, Dean and the George Pratt Shultz Professor of Economics in the GSB. “The funds will help the GSB forge a future in the study, teaching and practice of venture capitalism.”

    The gift is part of a $250 million capital campaign at the business school to strengthen academic research centers, recruit and retain leading faculty, and fund the new campus now under construction in Hyde Park. The business school’s fund-raising effort is part of the University’s current $2 billion capital campaign.

    Polsky was founder and CEO of Skygen LLC, a leading energy development company based in Northbrook, Ill., which developed, owned and operated electric power generation facilities in North America, prior to being purchased by Calpine Corporation. After leaving Calpine in 2001, Polsky founded Invenergy LLC, based in Chicago, which also develops and acquires electric power and transmission assets. Earlier in his career, he co-founded Indeck Energy Services, a developer and builder of power plants.

    Polsky grew up in the Ukraine under Soviet rule. “It was the classic Soviet Union situation–very political, no freedoms, no opportunities,” he said. After high school, he tried to get into a university to study math or physics, “but it was not easy, particularly because I am Jewish,” he said. Instead, Polsky attended Kiev Polytechnic Institute, where he earned a degree in mechanical engineering, then spent three years designing power plants. In 1976, he and his wife immigrated to the United States.

    He enrolled in the evening M.B.A. program at Chicago in 1982 while working at Fluor/Daniel as a supervising engineer. Midway through his studies, Polsky took his first entrepreneurial step when he formed Indeck Energy in 1985.

    His gift anchors 27 major gifts the school has received recently in support of its entrepreneurship program. In addition to offering more than a dozen entrepreneurship courses, including Entrepreneurial Finance and Private Equity, and New Venture Strategy, the GSB also offers an annual business plan competition where students compete for $50,000 in prize money.