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Trustee endows career enhancement program for student-athletes

David G. Kabiller NU for Life Program prepares students for success after graduation

David Kabiller speaking at the 2018 Wildcat Professional Excellence Program
David Kabiller speaking at the 2018 Wildcat Professional Excellence Program

Northwestern University’s student-athletes aspire to excellence both in the classroom and in competition. Thanks to a leading career development program made possible by the generous support of Trustee David G. Kabiller ’85, ’87 MBA, they also excel post-graduation in a wide range of professions.

In recognition of a new multimillion-dollar gift commitment from Kabiller to endow the program, securing support for generations of future Wildcats student-athletes, the University has named the David G. Kabiller NU for Life Program in his honor. The gift counts toward We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, for which student support is a major priority.

A key differentiator for Northwestern Athletics and Recreation, the Kabiller NU for Life Program empowers Wildcats to think about how their unique experiences as student-athletes at a premier research university translate into their lives after graduation. This is accomplished through a comprehensive, four-year curriculum that helps students develop professional skills, explore different career fields and trajectories, access job and internship opportunities, and build their networks. Through personalized career coaching, alumni mentoring, employer outreach and training in job-search skills, program participants gain the tools and confidence to succeed post-graduation — whether in their sport, an advanced degree program or the workforce.

“David has been an extraordinary champion of our student-athletes,” said Northwestern University President Morton Schapiro. “Thanks to his generosity and leadership, generations of Northwestern student-athletes will benefit immensely from stronger career development support as well as mentoring guidance from our extensive network of Wildcats alumni.” 

The Kabiller NU for Life Program follows a structured curriculum with dedicated programming for each academic year, including: 

  • The Wildcat Professional Excellence Program, an annual event for juniors that connects them to distinguished alumni through networking and structured conversations
  • Industry exploration through alumni panels
  • Student-athlete job and internship receptions
  • Building foundational professional elements, including resumes, LinkedIn profiles and cover letters
  • Participation in industry-specific cohorts, ranging from health care and engineering to marketing and finance
  • The Irving Kabiller Memorial Award, named in honor of Kabiller’s father, a $5,000 grant for professional development experiences, annually bestowed on five juniors in recognition of academic and athletic excellence
  • Supplemental programming including preparatory boot camps, lectures and seminars, career treks, job shadowing and mentorship

“Our mission is to provide a world-class experience for our more than 500 student-athletes while they’re on campus, and to prepare each of them for success following graduation,” said Jim Phillips, the Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation. “David’s commitment to the professional development of our Wildcats is remarkable. His vision and leadership have allowed us to create a comprehensive curriculum that differentiates us from peer institutions, leverages our alumni community and location, and builds a foundation for our students’ lifelong success.” 

Since launching in 2012, the Kabiller NU for Life Program has become an integral component of the student-athlete experience at Northwestern. As of June 2019, more than 1,000 student-athlete alumni across every sport and undergraduate major have participated in the program, 600 of whom have benefited from the program throughout their entire undergraduate careers. Alumni engagement in the program also has grown exponentially, with more graduates serving as mentors, shadowing hosts and employers.

Marisa Bast ’14, a former Northwestern softball player and 2019 Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame inductee, fully embraced the Kabiller NU for Life Program as an undergraduate and now participates as an alumna. 

“NU for Life opened doors for me I did not know existed, and I was fully prepared to walk through those doors after hanging up my jersey,” says Bast, a graduate of the School of Education and Social Policy who is now pursuing an MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business. “The program helped me land my first internship, secure my first job and earn admittance as an MBA candidate. I feel an enormous sense of pride and gratitude for NU for Life, and I am passionate about its future for the next generation of Wildcats student-athletes.” 

An alumnus of both the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences and the Kellogg School of Management, Kabiller was himself a student-athlete. As an undergraduate, he received an athletic scholarship to play tennis at Northwestern and was named to the Big Ten Conference Academic All-Conference team. He conceived of and ultimately endowed the Kabiller NU for Life Program to help educate students about their professional options and to inspire them through alumni mentoring.

“Over the years, I have had the privilege of engaging with many Northwestern student-athletes. There is no doubt they are among the best student-athletes in the world, and I am proud to invest in their future,” said Kabiller, cofounder of AQR Capital Management, a global investment management firm in Greenwich, Connecticut. “With their passion, talent and character, they are uniquely qualified to impact the world in a material way. I hope that by endowing this program we will realize the potential of NU student-athletes for generations to come.”

In addition to his service on the Board of Trustees, Kabiller is co-chair of the “We Will” Campaign’s New York Regional Campaign Committee, chair of the Nanotechnology Executive Council and a life member of the Kellogg Global Advisory Board. A generous and longtime benefactor to Northwestern, Kabiller is a platinum-level member of NU Loyal, Northwestern’s giving society recognizing consistent annual giving to the University, with 21 consecutive years of giving. 

Kabiller is also a passionate advocate for nanotechnology research at Northwestern. In 2015, he introduced the international Kabiller awards, which biennially recognize two top scholars — one pioneer and one rising star — in the field of nanoscience and nanomedicine. In 2018, Kabiller endowed both honors, ensuring that this recognition continues in perpetuity. The 2019 awards honored Northwestern professor Chad Mirkin with the $250,000 Kabiller Prize, the world’s largest monetary award for achievement in nanotechnology, and Molly Stevens of Imperial College London with the $10,000 Kabiller Young Investigator Award.

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 We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern is available at

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