Pearson Brothers Give $100 Million to University of Chicago

  • Twins Thomas and Timothy Pearson head family foundation
  • School will create research center to study global conflicts

The University of Chicago received a $100 million pledge, the second-largest in its history, from a pair of entrepreneurial twin brothers to create an institute to study global conflicts.

The research center will be named for Thomas L. Pearson and Timothy R. Pearson, both 61, who are chairman and chief executive officer, respectively, of the Thomas L. Pearson and the Pearson Family Members Foundation based in Wilmington, Delaware, the university said in a statement Wednesday.

Elite colleges favored by deep-pocketed donors have enjoyed strong fundraising results in recent years. Charitable donations reached an all-time high in 2014, to about $38 billion, bolstered by large, one-time gifts, according to an annual survey by the Council for Aid to Education. In the past year, billionaire hedge fund manager John Paulson gave $400 million to Harvard University’s engineering school and Roberta Buffett Elliott, the sister of investor Warren Buffett, donated more than $100 million to Northwestern University. Both were the largest in their schools’ history.

The Pearson foundation selected University of Chicago because of its “history of fostering an environment where rigorous inquiry is successfully applied to society’s toughest problems,” Thomas Pearson said in a statement. The gift will establish four named professorships and an annual forum to discuss global conflict and resolution.

New Strategies

“The imperative is to identify new strategies now that will address the spectrum of entities engaged in violent conflict from global superpowers, to state and sub-state, and non-state groups,” Pearson said. More people have been displaced this year, such as those fleeing the war zone in Syria, than at any time since World War II, creating a global humanitarian crisis, he said.

Thomas Pearson was senior vice president for the Alliance companies, which comprise several energy firms, and is now an adviser in business, law, and international finance. Timothy Pearson, a technology entrepreneur, is chief executive officer of Pearson Advisors Partners, a marketing consulting firm.

The university’s largest gift was from David Booth, an alumnus and founder of Dimensional Fund Advisors, who gave $300 million in 2008 to the business school, which was renamed the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. 

The Pearson foundation donation is equal in amount to an anonymous gift of $100 million in 2007 for the launch of a $400 million undergraduate student aid fundraising initiative.

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