June 7, 2007
Vol. 26 No. 18

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    Alumnus’ $100 million gift launches new Odyssey scholarship program

    By Julia Morse
    News Office


    An anonymous donor and College alumnus has given a $100 million gift, the largest in University history, to be used in the launch of a $400 million undergraduate student aid fund-raising initiative at Chicago.

    “This gift ensures that the most talented students, no matter their economic circumstances, will have the opportunity to benefit from the uniquely powerful and rigorous Chicago education,” said President Zimmer. “Providing access to the College for these students comports with our highest values, is central to our mission, and has the potential to greatly enrich the life opportunities for our students and their families for generations to come. We are deeply grateful for this extraordinary gift and the inspiration it provides for others to support students and the University.”

    The $100 million gift, which is entirely expendable over 15 years, will establish Odyssey scholarships, a program that will allow the University to reduce student loans among undergraduate students whose families demonstrate low or moderate income and high financial need. For those students whose annual family income is less than $60,000, the loans could be replaced entirely by grants, and for families whose income is between $60,000 and $75,000, the loans could be cut in half.

    “I make this gift to the University of Chicago because I believe it has had a profound effect on my life. I give this gift in the hopes that future generations of students will not be prevented from attending the College because of financial incapacity and may graduate without the siren of debt distracting them from taking risks and fulfilling dreams,” the donor said in a written statement.

    Odyssey scholarships will go into effect in the fall of 2008 and provide assistance to all qualified students in the College—both returning and incoming first-years. Almost 1,200 undergraduates at a time, including international students, are expected to benefit from the program—almost 25 percent of the entire College enrollment.

    As part of the Odyssey scholarship program, about 50 students who could benefit from a summer enrichment program to prepare them for their College experience, will be invited to campus during the summer before their first year to spend eight weeks working with faculty. Those students also will be relieved of work-study during their first year in the College in order to help them engage more fully in their academic experience.

    The $100 million also includes a component designed to challenge the University to raise an additional $300 million and to create an incentive for other donors to contribute to an endowment to support the program beyond the first 15 years of funding.

    “Although I fell far from the academic vine, my education in the College convinced me (in a way that no event or person has yet to undermine) that I was in fact, as Hanna H. Gray declared at my graduation, somehow a worthy citizen of an ancient and honorable community of scholars. The self-esteem that comes from a sense of citizenship in that tradition, however upon reflection marred it may be, has been the simple fixed point of the Archimedian comedy of my personal and professional successes,” the donor noted in his written statement, reflecting on the enduring influence of his Chicago education.

    A central part of that education is the Core curriculum, which Dean of the College John Boyer believes to be the heart of what makes the College experience so distinct.

    “I am delighted that this gift comes to us on the 75th anniversary of the College’s Core curriculum, the general-education curriculum that has been central to creating and sustaining the University’s distinctive interdisciplinary character, and which does so much to shape the intellectual skills and values and the subsequent professional careers of our undergraduate students,” Boyer said. “This gift will ensure that all talented and qualified students, regardless of family resources, will be able to participate in the University of Chicago’s great educational traditions.”