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$480 million Ryan Family gift for applied economics honors Northwestern President Emeritus Morton Schapiro
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$480 million Ryan Family gift for applied economics honors Northwestern President Emeritus Morton Schapiro

A $480 million gift from the Patrick and Shirley W. Ryan Family will establish the Morton Schapiro Center for Applied Economics at Northwestern University’s Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The gift honors Morton Schapiro, one of the nation’s leading higher education economists, who became Northwestern’s president emeritus in September after 13 years leading the University.

During Schapiro’s tenure, Northwestern rose to a position among the top 10 universities in the country, with record-high rankings for many of its individual schools and departments. Undergraduate applications nearly doubled, representation from underrepresented student groups doubled, and annual funding for sponsored research activity rose 86%. The University also transformed its campuses through nearly 50 major construction projects.

“With this gift, we wish to honor Morty’s commitment to the field of economics and the strong legacy he will leave at Northwestern,” said Pat Ryan, University trustee. “As president, Morty led Northwestern through one of its most transformative and sustained periods of academic growth, and the University elevated its status as a premier institution for research and teaching.”

Created from the Ryan Family’s historic $480 million gift, announced by the University in September 2021, the Morton Schapiro Center for Applied Economics will fuel innovative research made possible by the power of advanced computing and big data. At the center, faculty and students will engage in rigorous inquiry and intellectual debate. Students will learn to access, analyze and interpret large, intricate data sets and present findings that further understanding of the economy. The assessment of real-world situations by world-class scholars can directly improve policy analysis in areas such as health, labor, crime and market competition.

The Ryans’ gift will spur collaboration among teams of undergraduate and graduate students, pre- and post-docs, and faculty from across the University and around the globe. Additionally, it will fund conferences and seminars featuring eminent leaders in the field that will leverage Northwestern’s position at the epicenter of discussions across business, law, education, engineering and economics.

“I’m forever grateful to Pat and Shirley Ryan and their family for their unmatched generosity during my time at Northwestern,” Schapiro said. “I’m especially touched by this wonderful gift toward a field that’s of such importance to me as a researcher.”

Housed within Weinberg College, Northwestern’s department of economics currently is ranked eighth by U.S. News & World Report and has award-winning faculty, a renowned Ph.D. program and a track record of innovative research.

“The Ryan Family’s support of applied economics will increase Northwestern’s long-standing strength in economic theory, helping to secure and further the standing of Weinberg College’s department of economics while also benefiting faculty and students from across the University,” added Adrian Randolph, Weinberg College dean. “The Morton Schapiro Center for Applied Economics will help attract prominent thought-leaders and position Northwestern to capitalize on innovations made possible by the power of advanced analytics tools and cutting-edge data science.”

Robert Porter is the new chair of the economics department.

For the past 25 years, Northwestern’s economics department has been home to the most popular major for undergraduate students. Its high-profile faculty members have included the late Dale T. Mortensen, the Ida C. Cook Professor of Economics, who received the 2010 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences. Current faculty with strengths in applied economics include developmental economist Chris Udry, the Robert E. and Emily King Professor; former department chair and economic historian Joseph Ferrie; new department chair Robert Porter, the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor, who specializes in industrial organization; Matthias Doepke, the Gerald F. and Marjorie G. Fitzgerald Professor of Economic History; econometrician Charles F. Manski, Board of Trustees Professor in Economics; and recent hires Elisa Jácome, Molly Schnell and Silvia Vannutelli.

The Morton Schapiro Center for Applied Economics faculty will collaborate closely with Kellogg School of Management faculty as well.

As the largest donors in Northwestern’s history, the Ryan Family has made broad and deep philanthropic investments across the institution, including academics. The Ryans have given in support of hundreds of different University programs. Among the most notable are: Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Hall is the home of Northwestern’s International Institute for Nanotechnology (IIN), which brings together chemists, engineers, biologists, physicians and business experts from across the University searching for small answers to large, complex problems in areas as diverse as medicine, information technology, energy, homeland security, food and water safety and transportation.

The Ryan Family also contributed significantly to lab and research space within the Robert H. Lurie Medical Research Center on the Chicago campus.

Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Fellowship in Nanotechnology prepares top graduate students to assume leadership roles in academia and industry. Over the last 15 years, 218 fellows have been funded from 10 different departments across multiple disciplines. Approximately half of former Ryan Fellows have gone on to careers in academia; 44% are in industry; 4% are employed at other institutions, such as governmental agencies, national laboratories, nonprofit organizations and hospitals; and 2% are continuing their education.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Center for the Musical Arts is the architecturally acclaimed home on the shores of Lake Michigan of the Henry and Leigh Bienen School of Music as well as the theater and performance studies departments and administrative offices of the School of Communication. The center was dedicated on the Evanston campus in 2015.

The Ryan Family Chair Challenge has dramatically advanced research and teaching at Northwestern by driving the creation of endowed professorships across the University. During We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the Ryan Family Chair Challenge matched gifts made by other Northwestern donors to establish 25 new endowed professorships, or chairs, across a wide range of disciplines including screen and stage writing, nanotechnology and biomedical engineering. The chairs will provide a dedicated source of funds for the chairholders’ scholarly activities and underwrite salaries for these faculty and members of their research teams.

The Patrick G. and Shirley W. Ryan Family Scholars Program provides financial support for high-achieving, low-income undergraduate students with exceptional leadership potential. Each year, in partnership with Student Enrichment Services, the Financial Aid Office designates a diverse group of 20 to 25 incoming students as Ryan Scholars based on their community involvement, civic engagement and financial need.

Ryan Scholars have the opportunity to participate in community-building activities and cultural outings throughout the academic year. Since the program began, 297 students have participated in the Ryan Scholars Program.

Patrick G. Ryan is a 1959 Northwestern graduate. He received his undergraduate degree in business from what was then called the School of Business and now is named the Kellogg School of Management. He also received an honorary degree from the University in 2009 in appreciation for his 14 years of service as chairman of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees. In 2013, he was inducted into Northwestern’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

Shirley Welsh Ryan is a 1961 Northwestern graduate. She received her undergraduate degree in English Literature from what was then called the College of Arts and Sciences and is now named the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences. In 2019, Northwestern awarded Mrs. Ryan the honorary title of Doctor of Humane Letters.

Mr. Ryan is distinguished as one of Chicago’s most successful entrepreneurs and prominent civic leaders. His first business venture while a student involved selling scrapbooks to fellow students, which paid for his Northwestern education. Mr. Ryan founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage. At the time of his retirement, Aon had nearly $8 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries.

In 2010, Mr. Ryan founded Ryan Specialty, a service provider of specialty products and solutions for insurance brokers, agents and carriers. The firm provides distribution, underwriting, product development, administration and risk management services by acting as a wholesale broker and a managing underwriter.

Mr. Ryan currently serves as chairman and CEO of Ryan Specialty Holdings, Inc., which completed its initial public offering in July 2021. The firm’s shares trade on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “RYAN.” Mr. Ryan is distinct in having founded and built two major New York Stock Exchange traded insurance companies.

Mr. Ryan is a member of the Chicago Business Hall of Fame, and a member and past president of the Economic Club of Chicago. He also is a member of the International Insurance Hall of Fame and the Automotive Hall of Fame, a member and past chairman of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees, a recipient of the esteemed Horatio Alger Award and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Shirley Welsh Ryan is founder of, which is used by 40 million parents and healthcare professionals annually through its video-based website and social media in every country except North Korea. Three hundred U.S. institutions of higher learning use’s free materials. Mrs. Ryan’s pioneering work to empower every infant’s fullest physical development has won numerous awards. Two U.S. presidents have appointed her to the National Council on Disability in Washington D.C., which advises the U.S. Congress on disability policy.

In 2017, merged with the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, acclaimed for 32 years as the number one U.S. rehabilitation hospital by U.S. News and World Report.

The Medical Round Table (P.M.R.T.), created in 1990, is the first Infant Milestone Chart of typical and atypical development to be endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics (A.A.P.). All material is in accord with the leadership of P.M.R.T. and A.A.P.

Mrs. Ryan is a strong believer in the power of early infant detection, therapeutic intervention, universal accessibility, and the concept that all children can learn. She serves on the boards of University of Notre Dame, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Alain Locke Charter School and WTTW-PBS. She also has served on the boards of the John Kennedy Center for Performing Arts in Washington D.C. and Ronald McDonald House Charities; has chaired the Chicago Community Trust; and founded the Lincoln Park Zoo Women’s Board. For 46 years, Mrs. Ryan has led a Northwestern graduate-level course entitled Learning For Life.

Mrs. Ryan has been awarded honorary doctorates from Northwestern, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Illinois at Chicago. She also has received the Chicago History Museum Award for Distinction in Civic Leadership.

In addition to earning her B.A. from Northwestern, Mrs. Ryan studied at the Sorbonne of the University of Paris and the Ecole du Louvre in Paris.

In addition to Mr. and Mrs. Ryan, the Ryan Family includes Pat ’97 JD, MBA and Lydia; Rob ’00 JD, MBA and Jennifer; and Corbett.

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