A late University of Chicago alumnus and longtime supporter is leaving an outsized mark on the campus by bequeathing $50 million—the largest estate gift ever received by the South Side institution.
The donation comes from Arley Cathey, who owned a butane oil company and died at 93 last year. He pledged his estate to U of C in 2012 when it was valued at $17 million. In the final years of his life, Cathey sold off many of his assets in retail and real estate and invested in the stock market to maximize his contribution, the university said in a news release.
The historic gift will be used to support undergraduate financial aid, research and international educational programs for students and faculty. U of C said it will also launch a $20 million match campaign in honor of the donation to benefit its Odyssey Scholarship Program, which has provided 5,300 students with need-blind, loan-free financial aid.
“Not only did Arley’s College experience enable him to meaningfully impact the world as a scholar and businessman, but his boundless devotion to and respect for UChicago also will give more students the opportunity to enjoy the distinctive education he so greatly valued for years to come,” undergraduate Dean John Boyer said in the release.
Cathey, who grew up in Arkansas, enrolled at U of C when he was 16 and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1950. Several buildings on campus are named after him, including the Arley D. Cathey Dining Commons and the Cathey House, a residence hall. He was a frequent sight on campus when his health allowed him to visit, known for donning bowties.