The University of Utah today announced a $15 million donation from The Kahlert Foundation to provide support for the university’s renowned School of Computing.
The Kahlert Foundation’s donation will establish an endowment to provide the School of Computing with flexible, long-term funding that will expand student support, bring in top faculty and accelerate industry collaborations. In recognition of the gift, the university will rename the school in collaboration with The Kahlert Foundation.
“The University of Utah’s computer science program is a legendary strength of both the school and the state, and we wanted to do our part to help that legacy continue,” said Heather Kahlert, vice president of The Kahlert Foundation and a University of Utah alumna. “Our foundation is passionate about the value of STEM in improving lives and building for the future, and helping to ensure ongoing generations of diverse, top-level computer scientists in Utah is right in line with our mission.”
Established in 1991 by Bill Kahlert, a philanthropist and co-founder of Evapco Inc., the foundation provides grants to non-profit organizations in the areas of health care, education, youth programs, veteran organizations and human services. Originally established to support communities in the Maryland area, the foundation expanded its mission in 2015 to include Utah thanks to the influence and passion for philanthropy of Heather Kahlert, the founder’s granddaughter.
The Kahlert Foundation has emerged as the leader of a new generation of philanthropy and a major voice for improving the lives and outcomes of students at the University of Utah. Including this most recent gift, the foundation has provided more than $30 million in support across the university. Other recent projects funded and spearheaded by The Kahlert Foundation at the university include the Kahlert Initiative on Technology, a digital literacy certificate for all students, regardless of degree; Kahlert Village, a residential community for first-year students; scholarship support for student Athletes and David Eccles School of Business majors; and generous support for the both the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine Building and the Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center at Huntsman Cancer Institute.
“The University of Utah is a pioneering program in computer science and its deep value is clear in the fact that computer science has become the single largest major on campus,” said Taylor Randall, Ph.D., president of the University of Utah. “This generous gift from The Kahlert Foundation will ensure that the foundation and the School of Computing will continue to lead innovation and build the workforce that will continue to drive tech in Utah and around the world.”
“The Kahlert Foundation’s Gift is timely as it will amplify our efforts to make our computing program welcoming and inclusive, through support for student success programs and faculty development,” said Mary Hall, professor and director of the School of Computing.
Since its founding in 1965, the School of Computing has been a center of excellence and innovation, helping to lead a revolution in the use of computers for graphics, data visualization, and human interface. The school housed one of the first four nodes of the ARPANET, the forerunner to the internet. Today, the school is one of the fastest-growing on campus, with the number of students pursuing degrees or courses up 47 percent in five years. Nearly half of computer science degrees awarded by universities in the Utah System of Higher Education each year are from University of Utah.
“At a time of rapid technological change, and when others are competing for talent, Utah can continue to make major contributions in computing and many other fields,” said Edwin Catmull, Retired President, Walt Disney & Pixar Animation Studios, “By securing the School of Computing’s future financially, The Kahlert Foundation is helping to ensure that we will continue to make the U a foundational school for the advancement of technology, its applications, and impact on local businesses.”
The School of Computing continues to build upon its stellar reputation by conducting leading-edge research across a broad range of computer science fields, including AI and machine learning, computer architecture, robotics, high-performance computing, human-centered computing, data science, cybersecurity and wireless communications.
Well-known alumni include Alan Kay, recipient of the Turing Award for envisioning the first GUI at Xerox PARC; Ed Catmull, co-founder of Pixar; John Warnock, co-founder of Adobe Systems; Alan Ashton, founder of WordPerfect, Jim Clark, founder of Netscape and WebMD; and Telle Whitney, former CEO of Anita Borg Institute and co-founder of Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing.
The naming is pending review and approval by the university’s Board of Trustees at their meeting on November 8, 2022.
The Kahlert Foundation’s mission is to provide grants to non-profit organizations to improve the quality of life and well-being of the community in the areas of health care, education, youth programs, veteran organizations, and human services. The Kahlert Foundation has five main areas of focus: health care, education, youth programs, veteran organizations, and human services, mainly providing funding in the states of Maryland and Utah. Funding is intended to improve organizations’ capacity to make a positive impact on the local communities and their citizens.
The University of Utah is the state’s flagship institution of higher education, with 18 schools and colleges, more than 100 undergraduate and 90 graduate degree programs, and an enrollment of more than 34,000 students. In 2019, the university was selected as a new member of the Association of American Universities—an invitation-only, prestigious group of 65 leading research institutions marked by excellence in academic expertise and research impact, student success, and securing resources in support of core missions.
The U’s success in achieving excellence in research and teaching reflects the values of Utah: An unparalleled work ethic and a spirit of entrepreneurship, collaboration, and community service. These qualities have enabled the U to innovate across many fields and pioneer new programs with social impact; generate path breaking discoveries; fuel critical research; and inspire innovative approaches to education.
The U strives to be a model public university in delivering unmatched value in higher education and health care while making social, economic, and cultural contributions that improve the quality of life throughout the state, the nation, and the world. The U’s reputation for excellence draws top-tier faculty and attracts motivated students from across the country and internationally. These students bring with them diverse experiences and outlooks—representing traditional and nontraditional students alike—thereby enhancing the exceptional educational experience the U offers. More at utah.edu.