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Ryan Gift to Northwestern to Fund Scholarships, Research

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November 14, 2006 | by Alan K. Cubbage

Evanston, Ill. --- Patrick G. Ryan, chairman of Northwestern University's Board of Trustees, his wife, Shirley W. Ryan, and their family have made a significant donation to Northwestern that will be used to provide undergraduate scholarships for low-income students and student-athletes, graduate fellowships in chemistry, the life sciences, the nanosciences and engineering and to help support medical research facilities, Northwestern President Henry S. Bienen announced today.

“This gift symbolizes the philanthropic support of Northwestern by Pat and Shirley and their family in a wide range of areas,” Bienen said. “From undergraduate education to important medical research to athletics to cutting-edge scientific research, the Ryans have been visionary benefactors to the University. We are deeply grateful for their continuing support, which has transformed Northwestern.”

Pat Ryan is executive chairman and founder of Aon Corporation, a global leader in risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage, human capital consulting and outsourcing. After graduating from Northwestern in 1959, he started as an entrepreneur and founded an insurance agency, which grew to become Aon. He has been chairman of the board of trustees at Northwestern since 1996 and a member of the board since 1978.

Shirley W. Ryan, a 1961 Northwestern graduate, is chairman and co-founder of Pathways Awareness Foundation and has been a member of Northwestern's Women's Board since 1978.

“We're very pleased to provide this support for Northwestern in these critical areas,” said Pat Ryan. “By providing educational opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students and supporting important scientific research, it is our hope that our gifts benefit not just Northwestern University, but the entire Chicago region and beyond.”

The amount of the gift was not disclosed. The donation will be used to:

• Create a scholarship program that will provide the opportunity for low-income students to attend Northwestern without taking out any student loans. Northwestern will no longer require top students from low-income families to take out loans, but will replace the loan component of their financial aid packages with grants from Northwestern. The program will be named The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Scholarships. 

“It's important for Northwestern to play a leading role in ensuring access to higher education for students from all economic backgrounds,” Bienen said. “By eliminating student loans for students from least well-off families, we will continue our mission of meeting the financial needs of all students who attend Northwestern. For these students we can eliminate the burden of paying off student loans that many students face upon graduation.”

• Support athletic scholarships for Northwestern student-athletes.  Northwestern provides 261 scholarships to a total of 365 athletes (some scholarships are partial scholarships) to participate in intercollegiate athletics. The Ryan gift will fund Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Athletic Scholarships.

The Ryans have long been supporters of Northwestern's athletic programs, providing the lead gifts for the renovation of Northwestern's home basketball court in the 1980s and the University's football stadium in the 1990s.

“Northwestern student-athletes represent the best in college athletics. Our graduation rates and GPAs are among the best in the country. This financial support will assist Northwestern in continuing to attract students who can succeed both on the playing fields and in the classrooms,” said Mark Murphy, Northwestern's director of intercollegiate athletics.

• Endow graduate fellowships in nanotechnology-related sciences. Northwestern University has become one of the leading institutions in the country in the field of nanotechnology, the science and technology of precisely controlling the structure of matter at the molecular level. The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Fellowships will fund graduate students in nanotechnology, as well as fields such as chemistry, proteomics, biomedical engineering, genetics and others.

“Nanotechnology has the potential to affect virtually all areas of our lives from cures for debilitating diseases to energy conservation to computing. By expanding Northwestern's research into a variety of areas relating to the nanosciences, this gift will hasten the translation of research discoveries into practical applications,” said Lawrence B. Dumas, Northwestern's provost.

In honor of the Ryans' gift, the building on Northwestern's Evanston campus that houses the nanofabrication laboratories will be named Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Hall. The building, which was completed in 2003, houses research laboratories, support space, conference rooms and faculty offices. The four main floors, each with a computer lab, also have room for up to 144 postdoctoral researchers, graduate students, visiting professors and scholars. An incubator lab allows researchers to collaborate with industrial partners.

The Institute for Nanotechnology, an umbrella organization for the multi-million-dollar nanotechnology research efforts at Northwestern, and the NU NSF-Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center (NSEC), one of only six such centers in the country, have their headquarters in the building.

• Continue the buildout of the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center.  Opened last year, the $200 million Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center provides state-of-the-art medical research and teaching facilities on Northwestern's Chicago campus. The 12-story, 200,000-square-foot Center includes research laboratories in the areas of cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, bionanotechnology, infectious diseases, regenerative medicine and genetics.

“The Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center provides researchers with superb facilities for conducting pioneering medical research,” said Lewis Landsberg, M.D., dean of Northwestern's Feinberg School of Medicine and vice president for medical affairs.

The Ryans' gift will enable additional labs and research space in the building to be finished and fully equipped. Northwestern will name the atrium of the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Atrium.

“For more than 25 years, Northwestern has benefited from the philanthropic and volunteer leadership of Pat and Shirley Ryan,” Bienen said. “We truly appreciate their outstanding dedication, support and commitment to Northwestern.”

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