University of Illinois Announces Record $100 Million Campaign Gift Commitment to Support Science and Engineering at Urbana-Champaign

Jun 06, 2007 08:10 AM

The University of Illinois announced a record $100 million gift commitment from alumnus Thomas Siebel during the kick-off of the largest fundraising effort in the 140-year history of the University.

The gift commitment from Siebel, a high-tech business innovator who holds three degrees from Illinois, is an estate provision combined with outright support of science and engineering on the Urbana-Champaign campus. The Thomas M. Siebel Fund for Excellence will emphasize collaborative work that addresses major problems and opportunities facing humankind in this century, including the convergence of the computational and life sciences and breakthrough developments in energy and human health.

Siebel has expressed particular interest in alternative energy to reduce dependence of carbon-producing fuels, the application of information technology to bioengineering, and stem cell research. The Siebel Fund for Excellence may help fund a building to house this work and support related academic activities.

The Siebel Fund may support research for faculty and students, symposia, endowed professorships or chairs, graduate fellowships, and public policy development and programs designed to apply research pertaining to the fields of inquiry the fund supports. The Siebel Fund will also support collaborative and research and program efforts between the U of I and other academic institutions, businesses or governmental entities.

The Thomas M. Siebel Fund for Excellence in Science and Engineering is the largest of a series of major gifts from the 1975 U of I history graduate, who also earned an MBA in 1983 and a master’s degree in computer science from Illinois.  In 1999, he donated $32 million to the Urbana-Champaign campus to help construct the Thomas M. Siebel Center for Computer Science, an integrated education and research facility that has helped the U of I attract outstanding faculty and students.

In 2000, a $2.6 million corporate gift to the U of I from Siebel Systems, a leading software company founded by Siebel in 1993, established the Siebel Scholars Fellowship Program in the Department of Computer Science. Illinois was one of 11 computer science or business colleges in the nation selected by Siebel Systems for the program.

In 2006, he and his wife, Stacey, through the Thomas and Stacey Siebel Foundation, provided $2 million to the U of I to establish the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in Computer Science. Also in 2006, Siebel made a gift of $2 million to create the Thomas M. Siebel Chair in the History of Science in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of History.   

The newest gift commitment from Siebel more than doubles the largest single gift to the U of I from an individual. In 1985, Arnold Beckman, founder and chairman of Beckman Instruments, a manufacturer of scientific instruments, made a $40 million gift to his alma mater to create the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

Thomas Siebel has long been interested in the history of ideas, science and philosophy. After graduating from the U of I, he worked in the publishing industry before returning to the U of I, where he became immersed in relational database theory.

After earning his M.S. in computer science at the U of I, he joined Oracle in 1984 as a systems engineer. He got into sales at Oracle and quickly became the company’s top salesman. By 1989, he was general manager of Oracle’s direct marketing division. He left Oracle in 1990 and joined Gain Technology, a multimedia software company, and served as its CEO. He left Gain in 1993, founded Siebel Systems and took the company public in 1996, leading its skyrocketing growth of sales and service to dozens of countries around the world. Siebel Systems was sold to Oracle for $5.8 billion.
In 2003, Siebel bought UpShot Corp. to run sales-management software for client companies over the Internet. He currently serves as chair of First Virtual Group of Palo Alto, Calif., a diversified holding company with interests in commercial real estate, agribusiness, global investment management and philanthropy.

Siebel has been widely recognized for his accomplishments. He was cited as one of the top 10 CEOs of 2000 by Investors Business Daily. Business Week magazine named him to its list of the top 25 managers in global business in 2000 and 2001. Industry Week named him the CEO of the Year in 2002. He received the David Packard Award from the Business Executives for National Security in 2002. Ernst and Young named Siebel as its Master Entrepreneur of the Year in 2003.

He remains very active at University of Illinois, serving on the College of Engineering’s board of advisors and is a director of the University of Illinois Foundation. He delivered the commencement address at his alma mater in 2006.

The Siebels’ gift provision was announced by U of I President B. Joseph White during the kickoff of Brilliant Futures: The Campaign for the University of Illinois, which seeks to raise $2.25 billion to support students, faculty, research, programs and campus environments.

The Brilliant Futures Campaign was publicly launched Friday night at an event attended by over 1,115 alumni and other supporters at Chicago’s Navy Pier. The campaign officially began on July 1, 2003, kicking off its “quiet phase” and will continue its eight and one-half year quest through year-end 2011.

Of the total $2.25 billion campaign objective, $1.5 billion is the goal for the Urbana-Champaign campus; $650 million is for the Chicago campus and $28 million is for the Springfield campus. The combined goal for University administration and the U of I Foundation is $72 million.

The Illinois campaign, with a goal of $2.25 billion, will rank among the elite and largest campaigns for higher education in the nation. There are just 10 campaigns that are, or have, been launched or completed that are larger.

The Brilliant Futures Campaign is the third comprehensive capital campaign for the University of Illinois. The initial fundraising endeavor, Campaign for Illinois, exceeded its $100 million goal by raising $137 million between 1979 and 1985. The second effort, Campaign Illinois, was launched in 1991 with a goal of $1 billion. When the campaign closed on Dec. 31, 2000, gifts totaled $1.53 billion, making this fundraising effort one of the largest ever conducted by a public university at that time.