Calling it an investment in the future, UCSB alumnus and Oracle chairman Jeff Henley delivered the largest single gift in the school’s history Saturday evening: $50 million, which will provide more prominence to UCSB’s quiet growth in the fields of science and engineering.
If the donation inspires others to give more, all the better, say Henley and university officials.
“There’s a feeling, from us, that UCSB doesn’t get enough recognition for all that it does,” said Henley’s wife, Judy.
“I think we’re better than our brand,” her husband chimed in, complimenting many of the students with whom he’s talked who have chosen UCSB for its growing science prowess.
The Henleys’ gift was formally announced at a reception Saturday night at the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management. The gift will support the Institute for Energy Efficiency and the College of Engineering.
About $30 million of the donation will go toward construction of Henley Hall, which will house the institute, with the remainder to be used for various priorities in the College of Engineering.
Before Saturday’s event, Henley spoke with reporters on a Bren School balcony overlooking the Pacific Ocean to talk about the decision.
“UCSB is the world’s best-kept secret,” he said, adding that he wants to inspire more students to pursue science and engineering. “That’s really what excites me.”
Henley graduated from UCSB in 1966 with a bachelor’s degree in economics, and later established the Jeff Henley Endowed Chair in Economics, which is currently held by Nobel Laureate Finn Kydland.
He helped found the Institute for Energy Efficiency and sits on the IEE’s Directors Council and Global Advisory Board, and is a member of the College of Engineering Dean’s Cabinet.
Henley has been chairman of Oracle for the last eight years after previously serving as the business hardware and software systems company’s chief financial officer and executive vice president from 1991 to 2004.
“The more we learned and got involved, the more it made sense to make a bigger gift,” said Henley, adding that he thinks of it as an investment.
UCSB needs more engineering and science lab space, and the funding will help consolidate the energy-efficiency work into one building, he said.
Henley told Noozhawk the remainder of the funding that doesn’t go toward the new building will be up to UCSB to determine how the College of Engineering spends it.
“We want to continue the upward trajectory of engineering and science,” he said.
Although it’s the biggest gift in UCSB’s history, it’s not as big as contributions seen at places like Caltech or Stanford, said Henley, who called for “donors to think bigger” in a time of ubiquitous budget cuts.
“Our campus is excited and thrilled to receive this gift,” UCSB Chancellor Henry Yang told Noozhawk.
Private funding has become more crucial than ever to the university. With California’s budget deficit climbing recently to $16 billion, more cuts are likely to higher education in the coming budget year.
In terms of overall funding, Yang told Noozhawk that UCSB receives half of what it received from the state just 10 years ago.
“We’re hopeful this gift will inspire more supporters,” he said, noting that the campus is continuing to work toward its $1 billion capital campaign goal.
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— Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.