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$480 million gift to university from Patrick and Shirley Ryan family advances research, educational initiatives and athletics
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$480 million gift to university from Patrick and Shirley Ryan family advances research, educational initiatives and athletics

Northwestern will play the majority of its home football games next season at its lakefront soccer and lacrosse facility while a new Ryan Field is constructed on the site of the old stadium, the school announced.

Northwestern plans to install a temporary structure at the soccer and lacrosse field that will remain in place through the 2025 season. The school said the capacity is still to be determined, though it will be considerably lower than at the old Ryan Field and the new stadium.

Northwestern is in discussions with other Chicago-area stadiums to host games. The Wildcats have played at Wrigley Field three times since 2010, including a loss to Iowa last year on a last-second field goal.

“I am thrilled that we could make this happen,” Northwestern president Michael Schill said. “It’s truly a win for our community. In addition to creating a wonderful fan experience in the lead-up to the opening of Ryan Field, hosting games on campus will reduce the travel burdens for our student-athletes and fans and will make games much more accessible. We also are pleased to keep the economic benefits of football gamedays in Evanston.”

The new Ryan Field is part of a $480 million donation from the family of Patrick and Shirley Ryan that is the largest in school history. Some of that money is also funding academic ventures.

The school has said the stadium would seat 35,000, down more than 12,000 from the current Ryan Field, and feature a canopy designed to keep noise and light focused on the field. It would include cutting-edge technology and scoreboards, as well as concessions with food from local restaurants, and would achieve Gold LEED certification.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family’s $480 million gift will accelerate breakthroughs in biomedical, economic, and business research. It will also enable the University to redevelop Ryan Field and construct a best-in-class venue for the Northwestern community.

The Ryan Family’s gift builds upon their unwavering commitment to furthering strategic initiatives that contribute to Northwestern’s trajectory as a top-tier academic institution. The Ryan Family was already the largest benefactor in Northwestern’s history before this new gift. Their philanthropic support has benefited areas across the University, including scientific research, faculty, academic programs, student access and success, performing arts and athletics.

The Ryans’ historic gift will support educational and research initiatives in the fields of applied microeconomics, business, digital medicine, neuroscience and global health, as well as translational research at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and the redevelopment of Ryan Field.

“I am immensely grateful to Pat and Shirley Ryan and their family for their extraordinary generosity and leadership over many years, which has propelled Northwestern to new heights as a leading research university,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said. “The Ryan Family’s new gift will have a profound and lasting impact on faculty and student opportunities, including research and discovery. Additionally, our student-athletes, coaches, fans and the community will benefit from their support of Northwestern Athletics and Recreation for many years to come.”

The Ryans’ new gift supports several areas of the Feinberg School of Medicine, including:

The Ryan Family Digital Health Fund is focused on digital medicine technologies to improve human health. One part of this fund facilitates the development of an interactive digital application to assist parents in employing sensor programs for measuring neuromotor performance in infants in collaboration with and ProjectCorbett Ryan-Northwestern-Shirley Ryan AbilityLab-Lurie Children’s Infant MotorEarly Detection, Intervention, and Prevention. The second part of this fund supports the curation of a sustainable and accessible library of diverse and unique health data sets. Funds will aid in the sourcing, hosting, indexing and tailored guidance to assist Northwestern students, trainees and scientists with essential data grist to develop innovative health analytics aligned with the University’s research and educational mission.

A new institute in the field of neuroscience will dramatically advance Northwestern’s distinctive scholarship in the field of neuroscience. Northwestern Memorial Hospital ranked ninth in neurology and neurosurgery in the U.S. News & World Report2021–22 Best Hospital rankings.

The Ryan Family Catalyst Fund will facilitate promising medical research by scholars who have the potential to make an important impact on human disease.

The gift endows the existing Institute for Global Health, which will be renamed the Robert J. Havey, MD Institute for Global Health in honor of Robert J. Havey , the institute’s deputy director and clinical professor of general internal medicine and geriatrics at Feinberg. The endowed fund will support the institute’s operations as well as student travel and projects and research conducted by Feinberg faculty.

The Ryan Family Center for Global Primary Care is established within the Havey Institute.

“Advancing scientific discovery, especially in human health, has been a longstanding priority for our family,” Shirley Ryan said. “Northwestern’s world-class scientists and innovative and interdisciplinary approach to research have tremendous potential to advance treatments and tools that can improve the lives of people in the U.S. and globally.”

“This wonderful gift from the Ryan Family supporting these five biomedical initiatives is an absolute game-changer,” said Eric Neilson, M.D., vice president for medical affairs and the Lewis Landsberg Dean at the Feinberg School of Medicine. “It is imaginative support like this that accelerates the pace of discovery for some of society’s most important health issues. We are very grateful for their commitment to the science in medicine.”

In addition to supporting human health, the Ryans’ gift endows a Center for Applied Microeconomics, solidifying Northwestern’s leadership position in economics while fueling research with the capacity for significant social and policy impact. The Department of Economics, housed in the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences, currently is ranked seventh by U.S. News & World Report and has award-winning faculty, a renowned Ph.D. program, and a track record of cutting-edge research. The department has included a Nobel Prize winner and has offered undergraduate students the most popular major for the past 25 years. The University’s microeconomics ranking rose from 17th in 2009 to 5th in 2021.

“The Ryans’ generous support will help Northwestern’s highly ranked Department of Economics tackle new and exciting problems at the cutting edge of economic theory and practice,” said Adrian Randolph, Weinberg College dean. “Moreover, scholars and students from across Northwestern will benefit from this investment in the Center for Applied Microeconomics, putting us at the center of discourses about some of the most pressing issues facing our nation and the world.”

Major support for the Kellogg School of Management — The Ryans’ new gift also will benefit the Kellogg School of Management, where Pat Ryan received his undergraduate degree in business in 1959, when it was known as the School of Business, and where the Ryans’ sons, Pat Ryan Jr and Rob Ryan received their MBAs — along with their JDs from the School of Law.

“I am delighted the Ryan Family is honoring their long and deep connection to Kellogg with this gift,” said Francesca Cornelli, Kellogg’s dean. “Pat Ryan has a legacy of disruption and innovation and has created two publicly traded companies, pinnacles of their industry, providing professional insurance services: Aon and Ryan Specialty Group. This is what we want our students to aspire to, and this gift will allow Kellogg to enhance our forward-looking programs.”

The transformative gift from the Ryans also provided the lead gift for the redevelopment of Ryan Field, creating an enhanced gameday experience for students, alumni, fans and the surrounding community. Additional philanthropic gifts will be raised to complete the project.

An important goal of the redevelopment is to exceed Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements and make the stadium exceptionally accessible and welcoming to all attendees. The project also will focus on environmental sustainability opportunities.

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