A longtime donor and former University of Kentucky trustee has pledged a $12 million gift to support an academic center he founded.
Paul Chellgren, the former longtime CEO of Ashland Inc., and his wife Deborah Cole Chellgren, were at UK on Wednesday to announce the gift, which will support the Chellgren Center for Academic Excellence.
UK also is renaming the Woodland Glen I residence hall as Chellgren Hall.
“I am honored to have the opportunity to give back to the University of Kentucky — an institution that has meant so much to me and my family,” said Chellgren, who graduated from UK as an undergraduate in 1964. “Giving back is about those we impact, educate and serve, and the future we want them to create. In the past decade, almost 400 Chellgren Center students have come to UK in search of an education that challenges them to compete and succeed in a complex and diverse 21st century economy.”
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The gift is divided into two pieces:
▪ $3.5 million to support the Chellgren Center, with $1.25 million of that amount to launch the Chellgren Initiative to advance undergraduate excellence;
▪ $8.5 million to create an endowment to support the center. The $8.5 million will come from a life insurance policy for Deborah Chellgren and death benefit payable to the university, officials said.
“For many years, the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence has been central for realizing this aspiration,” said UK President Eli Capilouto. “The center has leveraged our institutional assets, as both a land-grant and flagship research university, to support undergraduate excellence. On behalf of the UK family, I want to extend our sincerest thanks to Mr. and Mrs. Chellgren, who have left an indelible mark on our institution.”
UK officials said this gift will bring the Chellgrens’ total giving to UK to $18 million.
Chellgren is a native of Tullahoma, Tenn., and came to UK as an honors student and became student body president his senior year. After UK, Chellgren earned an MBA from Harvard University and an advanced degree in economics from Oxford University. He joined Ashland in 1974 and was named president and chief operating officer in 1992.
Ashland announced his retirement in 2002 because it said Chellgren violated a company policy banning office relationships. He and his first wife, Sheila, divorced in 2004.
Chellgren served on the UK Board of Trustees for 11 years, and was inducted into the UK Gatton College of Business and Economics Hall of Fame in 1995, and the UK Hall of Distinguished Alumni in 2000.
In 2005, he began the Chellgren Fund for Student Excellence to provide resources for research in the physical sciences, life sciences, social sciences and the humanities. His gifts created the Chellgren Center for Undergraduate Excellence as a collaboration among several undergraduate initiatives.
“For decades, Paul Chellgren and his family have given back to this university — through donations, as a board member, and as someone who has proudly represented UK as one of our Commonwealth’s most successful CEOs,” said Angela Edwards, chairwoman of the Academic and Student Affairs Committee of the UK Board of Trustees. “He understands that the best education is one that challenges students to grapple with the questions of the day and to take from this place the skills they will need to be continuous, lifelong learners.”