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Alumni leaders commit $3.9 million to support low-income students

Gifts from the Budd and Cahillane families will bolster Student Enrichment Services and the Summer Internship Grant Program at Northwestern
Gita Blumentals Budd and J. Mark Budd (left), and Steven A. and Tracy Tappan Cahillane (right)

Two recent gifts to Northwestern University’s Division of Student Affairs will help low-income and first-generation students thrive at Northwestern.

A $2.4 million estate gift commitment from double-alumna and volunteer Gita Blumentals Budd ’76, ’78 MBA and her husband, J. Mark Budd, will provide programming and financial assistance for students in need, as well as stipends to students pursuing unpaid summer internships. A $1.5 million gift from alumni Steven A. ’87 and Tracy Tappan Cahillane ’88 also will support student programming and assistance.

“Through their generous philanthropy, the Budd and Cahillane families are lighting the path for our low-income and first-generation undergraduate students, whose limited financial resources might otherwise prevent them from experiencing all Northwestern has to offer,” said Patricia Telles-Irvin, vice president for Student Affairs. “I am very grateful to Gita, Mark, Steve and Tracy for this tremendous vote of confidence in our students, our staff and our programs.”

Between the two gifts, which count toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, $2.7 million is expected to benefit Student Enrichment Services, which strives to build an inclusive Northwestern community that is welcoming, supportive and accessible for all students. In addition to unique programming, Student Enrichment Services provides qualified students with support to offset the costs of participation in student activities, health and wellness copays, emergencies and basic needs such as textbooks, laptops and winter coats.

“Gifts to Student Enrichment Services help students be students first,” said Kourtney Cockrell, director of Student Enrichment Services. “With this support, students now and for generations to come will be able to engage in the full Northwestern experience alongside their friends and classmates without worrying about the financial tradeoffs.”

The remaining $1.2 million is expected to benefit the Summer Internship Grant Program (SIGP), which awards stipends to students participating in unpaid summer internships. Since 2007, the program has funded 1,789 students. 

“I am extraordinarily proud of Northwestern University for increasing its commitment to low-income and first-generation undergraduate students,” Gita Budd said. “Thanks to the hard work of my mother — who was the first person in her family to attend college, after coming to the United States as a ‘displaced person’ following World War II — I was blessed to have sufficient financial resources to complete both of my Northwestern degrees. I want to help pass along this blessing to current and future NU students and to be part of the effort to show these students that Northwestern alumni ‘have their backs’ and look forward to welcoming them as active members of the broader alumni community upon their graduation.”

Budd earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Northwestern’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences in 1976 and an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management in 1978. As an undergraduate student, she was a member of the Alpha Chi Omega sorority.

In 2015 Budd earned the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Service Award for her years of dedicated volunteerism on behalf of Northwestern. She is an active member of the “We Will” Campaign’s Washington, D.C., Regional Campaign Committee and the Northwestern University Leadership Circle’s Washington, D.C., Regional Board. She also is a member of the D.C.-area Alumni Admission Council, Council of One Hundred and NU Club of D.C. and has served on several of her class reunion committees. The Budds’ niece, Kelly Tyree Eichenholz, graduated from Northwestern’s School of Communication in 2018.

“We want our estate gift to enable low-income and first-generation students to have the resources to more fully experience the array of opportunities to learn and grow at Northwestern — specifically, through the activities and programs of Student Enrichment Services and the support offered for gaining meaningful work experience through the Summer Internship Grant Program,” said Mark Budd, who holds degrees from Concordia College (Moorhead, Minnesota), the Illinois Institute of Technology and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. After almost 40 years of marriage, throughout which he has actively supported his wife’s Purple Pride and Northwestern-related activities, Budd is widely considered to be an honorary Wildcat.

With 22 consecutive years of giving to Northwestern, Gita and Mark Budd are platinum members of the NU Loyal giving society. They also are members of the Henry and Emma Rogers Society, which recognizes those who have included Northwestern in their estate plans. The Budds have previously supported Kellogg, Weinberg College, Student Affairs and other areas of the University. 

Well before he became the CEO and chairman of the board of the Kellogg Company, Steve Cahillane was himself a first-generation college student.

“Tracy and I passionately believe that access to a quality education is a vital equalizer in society; but we also know that the educational experience can be very different if one doesn’t have sufficient resources to make the most of it. We are privileged to be able to help these deserving students have a more fulsome Northwestern experience,” said Cahillane, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science from Weinberg College in 1987. He joined Northwestern’s Board of Trustees — and its academic affairs and student life committees — in 2013 and last year served as an honorary member of his 30th class reunion committee.

Tracy Cahillane, who earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in Latin American studies from Weinberg College in 1988, co-chaired her 30th class reunion this year. As a student, she was a member of Kappa Kappa Gamma.

“Northwestern has been, and continues to be, a very special part of our lives. We hope this gift helps future generations benefit from the school we love so much, just like our family has,” she said.

Tracy and Steve Cahillane are members of the University’s Parents Leadership Council. Their daughter Mollie graduated from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications in 2017, and their daughter Megan is currently a senior in the School of Communication. In addition, Tracy’s brother James C. Tappan Jr. ’83, ’85 MBA is a graduate of both Weinberg College and Kellogg.

Together with their recent gift to support Student Enrichment Services, the Cahillanes contributed $500,000 in additional support to Northwestern Athletics and Recreation. The Cahillanes are gold members of the NU Loyal giving society. Their past gifts have supported scholarships, Athletics and Recreation, and other areas of the University.

The funds raised through the “We Will” Campaign are helping realize the transformational vision set forth in Northwestern’s strategic plan and solidify the University’s position among the world’s leading research universities.

Buoyed by Campaign support, the University launched major enhancements to financial aid in fall 2016, eliminating loans for qualifying first-year students and expanding funding for study abroad, undergraduate research and other learning opportunities. Throughout the Campaign, Northwestern has established 397 new endowed scholarships and fellowships and raised more than $355 million for scholarships and fellowships, including more than $145 million for undergraduate scholarships. In 2017–18 alone, Northwestern’s endowment supported more than 1,400 undergraduates and 2,100 graduate students. About 13 percent of students in the Class of 2022 are first-generation college students and, for the first time at Northwestern, a full 20 percent of incoming first-year students are Pell Grant-eligible.

More information on We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at