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Northwestern receives largest gift to financial aid in its history

Trustee Jeff Ubben and Laurie Ubben have committed $50 million for student scholarships

A transformative gift from two longtime donors will help generations of highly qualified students obtain a Northwestern University education. It will be the largest gift made to financial aid in the University’s history.

Northwestern trustee and alumnus Jeff Ubben ’87 MBA and his wife, Laurie, of San Francisco have made an estate commitment of $50 million to support scholarships for undergraduate, graduate and professional school students. 

“Making Northwestern accessible to talented students from every walk of life is essential to our efforts to build the most vibrant academic community possible,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “I want to thank Jeff and Laurie, whose remarkable generosity will enable countless deserving students to benefit from a Northwestern education.”

The Ubbens’ bequest will count toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, which has fueled 424 new endowed scholarships and fellowships to date. Their gift will support the “We Will” Campaign’s Thrive at Northwestern initiative, which aims to enhance financial aid resources for students as well as develop new programs, services and mentoring opportunities for those who are from low- and middle-income families and who are first-generation college students. One of the initiative’s goals is to enable all students to enjoy the full Northwestern experience.

Financial aid is a top funding priority for Northwestern. Over the past 10 years, the University has gone from enrolling 12% to 21% Pell Grant-eligible students in incoming classes. In the 2018–19 academic year, financial aid benefited 61% of undergraduates and 47% of graduate and professional students.

Northwestern has eliminated loans from the financial aid packages of qualifying undergraduate students, a policy that is being fully implemented this fall. Students can still take out federal and private loans to cover additional expenses and the Expected Family Contribution calculated by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“Laurie and I can think of nothing more worthy than to make a Northwestern degree accessible to as many outstanding students as possible,” Jeff Ubben said.

The Ubbens have a history of supporting programming that benefits students from diverse backgrounds. In 2017, Jeff Ubben completed a 10-year tenure as chair of The Posse Foundation’s national board of directors. In this role, he was instrumental in developing Northwestern’s partnership with the college access and leadership development program, which has sites in nine U.S. cities. Posse identifies high school students with academic and leadership potential for admission into a partner college or university.

Northwestern became a partner institution with the Posse Foundation in 2012. The University’s Office of Undergraduate Admission and Posse Los Angeles selected the first class of 10 Posse Scholars, who began their undergraduate career in fall 2013. Posse students begin working together in their senior year of high school to prepare for college, and once on campus, they meet weekly as a group with their campus mentor. Since the inception of the program at Northwestern, 71 students have participated in Posse. This year it celebrated the graduation of its third cohort.

“Jeff and Laurie have made many gifts to advance the University’s top priorities, such as global sustainability and energy challenges and the Kellogg School of Management, and are now leading the way for students through the Thrive at Northwestern initiative,” Schapiro said.

The Ubbens’ past Campaign gifts to Northwestern have included support for Kellogg, Athletics and Recreation, the Bienen School of Music and other areas of the University. In 2017, the Ubbens made a $5.5 million gift to the Institute for Sustainability and Energy at Northwestern (ISEN) to establish the Ubben Program for Climate and Carbon Science to improve understanding of global climate system dynamics and evaluate low- and zero-carbon alternatives to fossil fuels. That same year, Northwestern announced that the Ubbens — together with Trustee Tim Sullivan and his wife, Sue — committed a total of $3 million to Northwestern Athletics and Recreation to establish the Sullivan-Ubben Head Men’s Basketball Coaching position, held by Chris Collins. The Ubbens are members of NU Loyal, a giving society recognizing consistent annual giving to Northwestern, and the Henry and Emma Rogers Society, which honors Northwestern supporters who have included the University in their estate plans.

Jeff Ubben is CEO, chief investment officer and founder of ValueAct Capital, a San Francisco-based private money management firm. He also is a member of the board of directors for AES Corporation and Nikola Motor Company. A 1987 Kellogg graduate, Jeff Ubben is a charter trustee serving on the Northwestern Board of Trustees’ finance and student life committees. He is a member of the steering committees for the “We Will” Campaign and Kellogg’s campaign, and he co-chairs the University’s San Francisco Regional Campaign Committee. 

Laurie Ubben is co-founder of the Bird School of Music and was executive producer of the film “Loving Vincent.” She also serves on the board and national advisory committee of Youth Speaks, one of the world’s leading presenters of spoken word performance, education and youth development programs.

Jeff and Laurie Ubben have three children: Charlotte, Theo and Josephine ’20 MBA, who currently attends Kellogg. Jeff Ubben’s father, Timothy ’59 MBA, also attended Kellogg.

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. More information on the “We Will” Campaignis available at

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Jeff and Laurie Ubben
Jeff and Laurie Ubben