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Northwestern receives $10 million gift to foster collaboration in social sciences and global studies research

Commitment from alumni Steve and Tracy Cahillane will help transform the Jacobs Center into a hub for learning as well as student engagement

EVANSTON, Ill. --- Northwestern University Trustee Steven A. Cahillane ’87 and Tracy Tappan Cahillane ’88 (’17, ’19 P) have made a $10 million gift toward the renovation of the Donald P. Jacobs Center on the University’s Evanston campus, kick-starting a plan to turn the building into a hub for research, learning and student activity. The new facility will expand Northwestern's capacity to innovate in the social sciences and global studies.

One of the University’s strategic priorities, the renovation project will transform the interior of the building, a currently underutilized space, and significantly enhance the surrounding grounds. Located in the heart of campus on Sheridan Road, the Jacobs Center was built in phases between 1972 and 2001 and previously housed the Kellogg School of Management. Construction will begin this year and is expected to be completed in 2026.

“We are so grateful to Steve and Tracy for their incredible love for Northwestern and for their wonderful generosity,” Northwestern President Michael Schill said. “Their continued support has greatly benefited our exceptional students and faculty, and this gift will advance our vision for more deeply integrated scholarship, learning and student experience. Our social sciences and global studies programs are some of the best in the world, and they will now have ample space to thrive on the Evanston campus.”

The renovated building will be the new home of the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Affairs, the School of Education and Social Policy, the Institute for Policy Research and several departments within the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences: anthropology, linguistics, political science and sociology. Additionally, the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies and the college’s Program in Global Health Studies will move into the space.

Bringing these exciting intellectual areas together will create distinct hubs for the social sciences, policy and global affairs, bolstering opportunities for innovative partnerships and discoveries across schools and disciplines.

“Northwestern is committed to finding solutions to society’s most pressing issues through interdisciplinary research, and this initiative furthers our efforts to foster greater collaboration within the social sciences and global studies,” Northwestern Provost Kathleen Hagerty said. “Having so many world-class scholars in the same space will create natural connections that never before would have been possible and will lead to exciting new research endeavors.”

Once complete, the building will serve more than 1,000 faculty and students on a daily basis. It will feature numerous classrooms of varying sizes, along with meeting and seminar rooms, lab spaces, faculty offices, dining areas and space for student services. Each floor will offer open seating areas where students and faculty can gather. There will be additional space for student organizations, career fairs and other activities.

“Tracy and I are delighted to make this gift that will help enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and the student experience,” Steve Cahillane said. “Northwestern has played such an important role in our lives, and we are fortunate to be in a position to support our current and future Wildcats.”

The first floor will have a multipurpose event space that can host events of up to 150 people or serve as a student lounge; the space will open onto a terrace overlooking Deering Meadow, one of several outdoor gathering areas planned as part of new landscaping surrounding the building. In recognition of the Cahillane family’s gift, the event space/lounge and outdoor terrace will be named for them.

“Steve and I love Northwestern,” Tracy Cahillane said. “We met on campus as undergraduates, and it changed our lives. It is such a special institution, and we are grateful to be able to help the students of today and tomorrow benefit from a Northwestern experience.”

This gift continues the Cahillanes’ longstanding philanthropic support of Northwestern students. The couple previously established the Cahillane Family Scholarship Fund, which has provided 21 scholarship awards to 11 students since 2014, and the Cahillane Family Student Enrichment Services Endowed Fund, which was used to establish a process that allows first-generation, lower-income students to apply for more than 30 different opportunities ranging from undergraduate research grants to student activity funding. The Cahillanes are members of NU Loyal, the giving society recognizing consistent annual giving to Northwestern.

Steve Cahillane is chairman, president and CEO of Kellanova (formerly Kellogg Company), a company he has led since 2017. He earned his bachelor’s degree in political science from Northwestern and went on to receive his MBA from Harvard University. He has been a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees since 2013 and currently serves on the Executive Committee, as well as on the board committees for Audit, Risk and Compliance, and Finance. He also served as a member of the Chicago Regional Campaign Committee for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern and, along with Tracy, as co-chair of the “We Will” Georgia and Alabama Regional Campaign Committee.

Tracy Cahillane earned her bachelor’s degree in Latin American studies from Northwestern and is a former account executive at Oscar Mayer Foods Corporation. She has been a member of the Women’s Board of Northwestern since 2019 and, along with Steve, served as a member of the University’s Parents Leadership Council from 2017 to 2019.

The Cahillanes have four children, two of whom attended Northwestern: Mollie ’17; Megan ’19, ’23 JD; Jack; and Peter. Tracy’s brother, James Tappan ’83, ’85 MBA, is a Northwestern alumnus.