Record $480 Million Gift Pushes Northwestern Past $6 Billion In Its Capital Campaign

Northwestern University announced on Wednesday that it had received a $480 million gift from the Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family. The gift is the largest in Northwestern’s history and pushed the university past the $6 billion mark in its “We Will” capital campaign, which officially wrapped up June 30.

The gift from the Ryan Family, already Northwestern’s largest benefactor prior to this latest gift, will benefit several areas across the university, including the fields of applied microeconomics, business, digital medicine, neuroscience, global health, translational research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the redevelopment of Ryan Field. 

 “I am immensely grateful to Pat and Shirley Ryan and their family for their extraordinary generosity and leadership over many years, which has propelled Northwestern to new heights as a leading research university,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said in the university’s announcement. “The Ryan Family’s new gift will have a profound and lasting impact on faculty and student opportunities, including research and discovery. Additionally, our student-athletes, coaches, fans and the community will benefit from their support of Northwestern Athletics and Recreation for many years to come.” 

Here are the major projects that will be supported by the Ryan gift. First on the medical front:

  • The Ryan Family Digital Health Fund will focus on digital medicine technologies to improve human health. One part of this fund will support the development of an interactive digital application that assists parents in using sensor programs to measure neuromotor performance in infants. The second part will support a sustainable and accessible library of unique health data sets.  
  • A new neuroscience institute will be established that will build on Northwestern’s leading scholarship in that field.
  •  The Ryan Family Catalyst Fund will support medical research by scholars with the potential to make important discoveries about human disease.
  •  The existing Institute for Global Health will be endowed and renamed the Robert J. Havey, MD, Institute for Global Health in honor of Robert J. Havey, the institute’s deputy director and clinical professor of general internal medicine and geriatrics at the university.
  • The Ryan Family Center for Global Primary Care will be established within the Havey Institute. 

 “Advancing scientific discovery, especially in human health, has been a longstanding priority for our family,” Shirley Ryan said. “Northwestern’s world-class scientists and innovative and interdisciplinary approach to research have tremendous potential to advance treatments and tools that can improve the lives of people in the U.S. and globally.” 


In applied economics and business, the gift will go toward two areas.

A Center for Applied Microeconomics will be endowed, further strengthening Northwestern’s reputation in economic research.

Support will be given to the Kellogg School of Management, from which Pat Ryan received his undergraduate degree in business in 1959, and where the Ryans’ sons, Pat Ryan Jr. and Rob Ryan received their MBAs. 

“I am delighted the Ryan Family is honoring their long and deep connection to Kellogg with this gift,” said Francesca Cornelli, Kellogg’s dean. “Pat Ryan has a legacy of disruption and innovation and has created two publicly traded companies, pinnacles of their industry, providing professional insurance services: Aon and Ryan Specialty Group. This is what we want our students to aspire to, and this gift will allow Kellogg to enhance our forward-looking programs.” 

The Ryans’ donation will also serve as the the lead gift for the redevelopment of Ryan Field, Northwestern’s 47,000-seat football stadium.

About the Ryans

Patrick G. Ryan, a 1959 Northwestern graduate majoring in business, founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, a major provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage. At the time of his retirement from Aon, the company had nearly $8 billion in annual revenue. 

In 2010, Mr. Ryan founded Ryan Specialty Group, a provider of products and solutions for insurance brokers, agents and carriers. Mr. Ryan is the chairman and CEO of Ryan Specialty Group Holdings, Inc., which trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “RYAN.”

Shirley Welsh Ryan is a 1961 Northwestern graduate, majoring in English. Nationally recognized for her support of work on infant brain development, she has been appointed to the National Council on Disability by two U.S. presidents. She is currently on the Board of Directors of the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, formerly the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago (RIC), which is a leading center in physical medicine, rehabilitation and translational research.

 The We Will Campaign

Northwestern launched its“We Will” Campaign in March 2014 with the initial goal of of raising $3.75 billion from at least 141,000 donors. After achieving those goals two years ahead of schedule, the university upped its target to $5 billion and 170,000 donors in September 2018. When the campaign was brought to a conclusion in June, it had brought in a total of $6.1 billion raised from 174,380 donors, making it one of the largest capital campaigns in the history of American higher education.

“This is an extraordinary moment for Northwestern,” President Morton Schapiro said in a university announcement about the campaign. “We said ‘We Will,’ and we did. Thousands of our alumni, parents, faculty, staff, students and friends came together to support the astonishing trajectory of Northwestern and increase our impact on the world, and I am truly humbled by their generosity.”

Among the highlights of the “We Will” Campaign are the following:

  • $436.3 million was raised for institutional financial aid, including $235.3 million for undergraduate scholarships.
  • Nineteen new endowed scholarships for international undergraduate students were created.
  • Seventeen research institutes and centers — and several additional programs and centers throughout the university’s various schools and units — were established. 
  • Nearly half of the funds raised – more than $2.8 billion – have been earmarked for medical research and operations.
  • A total of 90 professorships have been endowed.
  • More than $96.5 million was raised to support diversity, equity and inclusion–focused initiatives across the University.
  • Campaign funds supported construction of 25 new facilities on the Evanston and Chicago campuses in addition to 32 major renovations on the two campuses.
  • Finally, the University raised more than $7.1 million to support COVID-19-related initiatives, including emergency student assistance, community initiatives and research.
The Tycoon Herald