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Erlebacher and Silver Leverage Grainger Match To Create A Second Scholarship Fund

5/15/2018 3:35:30 PM David Mercer, Illinois Computer Science

Illinois Computer Science graduate Ross Erlebacher and his wife, Susan Silver, enjoy deep, longstanding ties to the University of Illinois.

Both are graduates (though they didn’t meet on campus), one of their children will enroll in the fall, and for more than a decade the family has used its Susan Silver and Ross Erlebacher Scholarship to give students access to the kind of education Silver and Erlebacher received.

Now the Grainger Foundation’s commitment to match gifts to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative has given Erlebacher and Silver an opportunity to both tightly focus the benefits of their existing scholarship, and to multiply their impact by creating a new one.
University of Illinois alumni Susan Silver and Ross Erlebacher have used the Grainger Foundation match to help fund a new scholarship.
University of Illinois alumni Susan Silver and Ross Erlebacher have used the Grainger Foundation match to help fund a new scholarship.

Erlebacher (BS ’88, MS ’89) and Silver have donated $25,000 to create the new Susan Silver and Ross Erlebacher Computer Science Visionary Scholarship Fund. Their gift will be doubled by the Grainger match.

The new scholarship will be for CS undergraduates, providing opportunities to future students who might not otherwise have access to the “world class” education that Illinois Computer Science provides, said Erlebacher, who is a senior director in health care consulting for Cognizant.

“It’s just one more person who can access the university who wouldn’t have been able to do it otherwise,” he said. “We’re big believers in undergraduate scholarships specifically. People need that first door opened.”

The existing scholarship has alternated between Computer Science and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where Silver earned her degree (BA Economics, ’88). Now it will be dedicated to LAS students.

“The Grainger match made it easy to give,” Erlebacher added. “It’s a great way to double the impact.”

Erlebacher and Silver both enrolled at the university in 1984. And both came from the Chicago suburbs, her from Northbrook, him from Skokie.

But they only met about a year after he headed back to the Chicago area with his master’s degree, through their university links.

“Our mutual friends ended up introducing us,” he said. “We did know quite a few people in common from the U of I.”

Now Silver works in real estate, while Erlebacher puts his degree to work solving problems for Cognizant’s clients.

“Engineering teaches you structured problem-solving, it teaches you analytical methods and the scientific method. I think it’s that discipline that I use regularly in what I do,” he said. “All of the technical concepts that a firm like Cognizant sells, that’s easy for me to understand. … The core computing concepts are all very second nature to what I do.”

And with daughter Lizzey Erlebacher enrolling in the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences for 2018-19, the Highland Park, Illinois, couple already have their next visits to campus planned for the fall.

Both mother and father are happy to reinforce their already strong ties to the university, he said.

“The university has so much to offer,” Ross Erlebacher said. “You should come out able to add something to our society.”