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College of Engineering Receives Three Leadership Gifts Totaling $19 Million

Villanova University’s College of Engineering has received three leadership gifts totaling $19 million in fiscal year 2015, which closes on May 31. The cornerstone is a $13.5 million commitment from Jan and Paul J. Varello ’65 CE, which marks the second-largest gift ever made to the University. Part of the University’s $600 million campaign, For the Greater Great®: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change, these philanthropic investments will support the College’s focus on innovative engineering education and help ensure its future for generations to come.

“We are tremendously grateful to these donors for their generosity and dedication to Villanova,” says the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, University President. “These gifts reflect a desire by Villanova alumni and friends to play a key role in charting the University’s future by expanding the academic opportunities for current and future engineering students.”

Today’s engineering students demand a dynamic learning environment, and the College is committed to redefining the way its students learn through innovative academic initiatives—from flipped classrooms to solving real-world problems through service-learning experiences across the globe. These leadership gifts will empower the College to realize its vision and achieve critical campaign priorities, including Faculty and Student Support, Facilities, Academic and Programmatic Initiatives, and Endowment.

“These gifts are an investment in the future of the College of Engineering, providing a strong foundation upon which we will achieve our vision and sustain our commitment to a premier engineering education built upon our Augustinian ideals,” says Gary Gabriele, PhD, Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering at Villanova University.

The three leadership gifts to the College of Engineering include:

  • $13.5 million commitment—a blend of a cash and estate gift—from Jan and Paul J. Varello ’65 CE, CEO of Sterling Construction Company Inc., the largest ever made to the College of Engineering. It will support the Engineering Dean’s Strategic Initiatives Fund, empowering successive deans to direct funds toward high priority needs, from faculty and student support, to academic programs, to infrastructure and equipment.

The size and scope of the gift will fuel the College’s continued evolution as a premier institution for engineering education in the 21st century.

  • $3 million commitment from Denise and John P. Jones III ’72 ChE, retired chairman and CEO of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., to establish the Jones Family Student Learning Commons in a planned expansion of the Drosdick Hall.

The patio of Drosdick Hall will be enclosed and converted into a state-of-the-art Student Learning Commons. Students will flock to this 4,600-square-foot communal atrium to study in groups, work on multidisciplinary team projects, and attend seminars and guest lectures. The space will be an ideal venue in which the College and University can host special events.

  • $2.5 million commitment from Nance Dicciani, PhD, ’69 ChE, Villanova trustee and retired president and CEO of the Specialty Materials Division, Honeywell International Inc., to establish the Nance K. Dicciani PhD ’69 Endowed Chair in Chemical Engineering. The funds will enable the chair to attract top-notch faculty, invest in curricular development, and raise Villanova’s visibility as a leader in research and scholarship in critical and emerging areas of chemical engineering.

“We are grateful that these distinguished alumni have chosen to reinvest their success in Villanova’s future,” says Michael J. O’Neill, Senior Vice President for University Advancement. “Their generosity has helped us take a great leap forward in our campaign and will dramatically enhance the opportunities Villanova can provide to its engineering students and faculty.”

Villanova launched the public phase of its campaign in Oct. 2013 with a $600 million goal. The most ambitious in the University’s 173-year history, the Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change is aimed at cultivating academic innovation across its schools and colleges, investing in recruiting and retaining the finest teacher-scholars, dramatically enhancing financial aid and student opportunities, and continuing to build a premier living-learning environment on the University’s 260-acre campus.