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With One Year to Go, Grainger Match Multiplies Impact of Scholarship Gifts

12/14/2018 5:05:07 PM

University of Illinois alumni Ross Erlebacher and Susan Silver for more than a decade have funded a scholarship that bears their names. But their decision to add a second scholarship this year was made simpler by one powerful tool.

“The Grainger match made it easy to give,” Erlebacher said when the couple added the new Susan Silver and Ross Erlebacher Computer Science Visionary Scholarship Fund. “It’s a great way to double the impact.”

The Grainger Matching Challenge is the Grainger Foundation’s commitment to match gifts to the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative and other endowed scholarship funds through December 2019. And over the past year it’s helped a number of generous donors double the power of their generosity, or even quadruple it if their company offers a matching-gift program.

Illinois Computer Science donors all seem to find their own core reasons to give.

Erlebacher (BS ’88, MS ’89) and Silver (BA Economics, ’88) pointed to their deep belief in undergraduate education.

“People need that first door opened,” said Erlebacher, who is a senior director in health care consulting for Cognizant.

But those who’ve taken advantage of the Grainger Match often say it, too, was a key part of their motivation. A look back at some of those gifts this year:

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David Simon (BS CS ’05) said he believes in the direction of the Computer Science program – particularly what he sees as growing emphasis on hands-on and group-based work that reflect his day-to-day job as manager of data warehouse development for Sirius XM Radio in New York City.

David Simon
David Simon
“That’s more how the real world thinks. In the business world, I’m never working on a project by myself,” Simon said.

But knowing the impact of his gift would be multiplied was an important bonus.

“I know what I do is doubled,” Simon said.

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When Amy Moore-McKee (BS CS ’82) was given a $1,000 scholarship to use as she chose as part of the Society of Automotive Engineers’ Sid Olsen Engineering Executive of the Year Award, she thought back to the doors her degree opened as she began her career and decided to put the money toward the Computer Science Visionary Scholarship fund.
Amy Moore-McKee
Amy Moore-McKee

Her CS degree, she said, “got me my start. I was grateful for the degree and the amount of credibility that came with it.”

Now, more than 30 years into her career, she is the Director of Engineering for Caterpillar Inc.’s Global Mining Design Center, leading a group of more than 300 design engineers. Philanthropy, and making sure her gifts have the maximum benefit through programs such as the Grainger Match, are an important part of her professional life.

“I think it’s important to give back to our communities,” Moore-McKee said.

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Working at Google, Paul Nash (BS CS ’98) saw the chance to donate to the Computer Science Visionary Scholarship fund as a chance to align his own philanthropy with an initiative that’s also important to his employer – recruiting and training people from underrepresented groups for STEM careers.

“That really resonated because in the last year or so at Google, there’s been a lot of work going on to start to really address our diversity challenge in the industry,” Nash said.
Paul Nash
Paul Nash

The Grainger Match only served to increase the impact.

Nash is a Group Product Manager with Google Compute Engine.

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The Grainger Matching Challenge runs through 2019.

It was launched in 2017 by The Grainger Foundation to match all donations made to scholarship endowments in the College of Engineering, including the Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative and the CS Visionary Scholarship Fund --up to $25 million.

Find out more about the Grainger Matching Challenge.