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$100 million gift to Notre Dame University from alumni couple launches unprecedented effort to fight poverty
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$100 million gift to Notre Dame University from alumni couple launches unprecedented effort to fight poverty

The University of Notre Dame is launching a bold new Poverty Initiative to develop and advance innovative solutions to help vulnerable populations and to train a new generation of leaders committed to the fight against poverty.

The lead gift of $100 million came from a couple who asked not to be named here for privacy reasons.

Every day, poverty stifles hope, opportunity, and dignity for 700 million people worldwide, including 37 million Americans. Despite well-intentioned policies and programs, too little is known about how to break poverty’s vicious generational cycle. The Poverty Initiative, part of Notre Dame’s new strategic framework, is poised to change that.

“Notre Dame’s Catholic mission gives a distinctive orientation to all we do, including our research, and nothing reflects that mission more powerfully than the Poverty Initiative, which will study and combat the causes and consequences of poverty,” said University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. “I believe Notre Dame is uniquely positioned to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people burdened by poverty.”

The Notre Dame Poverty Initiative is supported by an alumni couple’s lead gift of $100 million — the largest single donation to an academic priority in the University’s history.

“This extraordinary gift is a signal of the confidence our benefactors have in Notre Dame’s capacity to address the root causes of poverty and advance evidence-based, dignity-affirming solutions in partnership with service providers, policymakers, philanthropists and practitioners,” said John T. McGreevy, the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost.

“We are honored by their trust in us and excited about Notre Dame’s ability to transform lives through this important work.”

Led by economist Jim Sullivan, the Notre Dame Poverty Initiative will establish the University as a leading institution for poverty research, prepare students for careers and service in antipoverty efforts, and turn evidence into action, illuminating proven pathways out of poverty for people around the world.

Through the work of the Wilson Sheehan Lab for Economic Opportunities (LEO) in the College of Arts and Letters and the Pulte Institute for Global Development at the Keough School of Global Affairs, Notre Dame has already established a record of success by combining world-class research expertise with deep local knowledge and insights. Over the past decade, LEO and Pulte have built a foundation of strong partnerships with service providers and practitioners around the world and across the country, including Goodwill Industries, Catholic Charities USA, Catholic Relief Services and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The new Poverty Initiative will unify efforts across LEO and Pulte, fueling an innovative local-to-global approach. It will also establish stronger connections between the many departments, organizations, programs, faculty and students across the University who are committed to alleviating poverty, including the Center for Social Concerns and the Building Inclusive Growth Lab.

The Notre Dame Poverty Initiative will direct its work toward three areas:

Research: By recruiting leading scholars and investing in innovative research programs, the Poverty Initiative will support research that responds to the most pressing issues confronting people in poverty and that holds promise to inform policy, philanthropy and practice.

Student formation: The Poverty Initiative will invest in programming focused on student formation, including curriculum development and new research and experiential learning opportunities for both undergraduates and graduate students. It is committed to forming graduates prepared to address the challenges of poverty in their professional and personal lives.

Impact: Making measurable impact in alleviating poverty depends on translating research to action. The Poverty Initiative will engage with partners in government and the nonprofit and corporate sectors to replicate proven programs.

“As both an alum and a Notre Dame faculty member for over two decades, I have never been more excited to be a part of this institution,” said Sullivan, a professor of economics who directs both the Poverty Initiative and LEO, which he co-founded.

“This gift will ensure that Notre Dame is the place where undergraduate and graduate students come to study poverty, where prominent faculty come to conduct poverty-related research and where policymakers, philanthropists, practitioners and providers look to discover new pathways to break the cycle of poverty. The Poverty Initiative exemplifies Notre Dame’s mission to be a force for good in a world deeply in need.”

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