March 14, 1996
Vol. 15, No. 13

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    Palevskys donate another $5 million to University

    Computer pioneer Max Palevsky (Ph.B.'48, S.B.'48) and his wife Ellen have made a $5 million unrestricted gift to endowment through the Campaign for the Next Century.

    Gift totals to the campaign surpassed $618 million during the first week of March. The largest fundraising effort in University history, the campaign is concentrating on raising endowment for faculty support and student financial aid, and on construction funds for an expanded athletics, recreation and fitness complex.

    The Palevskys' gift will be used to endow the Max and Ellen Palevsky Fund, which the University will use to enhance faculty excellence at Chicago.

    "Max Palevsky is a remarkable man who has had a remarkable impact on our University," said President Sonnenschein. "Over the years, his gifts have supported both academic and extracurricular excellence, and this latest gift will help ensure the continued pre-eminence of our faculty."

    The study of philosophy, logic and science, a keen sense for business and a restless creativity have been hallmarks of Palevsky's career. That career has bridged academia, computers, film and the visual arts. The computer companies he founded during the 1960s were among the first serious competitors of IBM, and he was one of the original founders of Intel, on whose board he still sits.

    "My whole life has been shaped by the time spent as a College student at Chicago," said Palevsky. "It gave me a notion of, and enthusiasm for, all that was out there in the world. It gave me a sense of the terrain of learning and of the limitless horizons of discovery."

    Palevsky said he felt it important to make a gift to the University's endowment, but he did not want to put restrictions on the use of the funds. "If the institution doesn't know better than I how best to use my gift, then I'm probably giving to the wrong institution," he said.

    A Chicago native, he first came to the University for a year to study meteorology as a soldier during World War II. He returned to Chicago after the war to study mathematics and philosophy. "That first year in meteorology gave me a taste of Chicago, and I wanted more," he said. He graduated from the College with a combined concentration in mathematics and philosophy, then did graduate work at Chicago and at UCLA, where he also taught.

    In 1951 he was hired as a logician for the fledgling computer division of Bendix Aircraft. In 1961 he, along with five other former employees of large electronic and computer companies, founded Scientific Data Systems. The firm quickly became a success by concentrating on a small niche of scientific applications.

    In 1969, SDS was sold to the Xerox Corporation. From 1969 to 1972, Palevsky served as chairman of the executive committee of the board of Xerox. He eventually resigned to form other computer-based corporations, and he also founded a film production company, Cinema X, which produced such films as Fun With Dick and Jane, State of Siege, Marjoe and Islands in the Stream. He is an avid art collector, specializing in objects from the Arts and Crafts movement as well as contemporary and abstract works.

    He also became active in politics. He organized George McGovern's successful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and also organized and ran the first successful Los Angeles mayoral campaign of Tom Bradley.

    "It was at Chicago that I got my political bearings," Palevsky said. "Not that I was taught to be a Republican or Democrat, but I learned the importance of political discourse in a democratic society."

    For more than 25 years, Palevsky has generously supported the work of Chicago's faculty. In 1969 he established the Max Palevsky Fund, an unrestricted fund used at the discretion of the University president to attract and retain the world's top scholars. Four years later, he endowed the Max Palevsky Professorship of History and Civilization in the College. Palevsky served as a University Trustee from 1972 until 1982.

    The most visible symbol of Palevsky's ongoing generosity toward the University is the 500-seat Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. The facility, made possible by a gift from Palevsky, is a focus of extracurricular student life for the campus and is home to the Documentary Film Group, the oldest student-run film organization in the country.

    "The University is a special place, and Ellen and I feel a responsibility toward the institution that has given me so much," Palevsky said. "Chicago has always been a point of reference for others in higher education. Even academics who have not been students or faculty there look to Chicago for leadership. My gifts may shape not only our university but also others. That's a source of great satisfaction."