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Villanova University College of Engineering Receives Four Campaign Leadership Gifts Totaling $21.5 Million – Highlighted by $13.5 Million Commitment

$13.5 million commitment from Jan and Paul J. Varello, ’65 COE, marks second largest ever made to Villanova University and largest ever given to the College of Engineering

College of Engineering receives four campaign leadership gift totaling $21.5 million - highlighted by $13.5 million commitment

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Villanova University’s College of Engineering has received four leadership gifts totaling $21.5 million, as part of the University’s $600 million Comprehensive Capital Campaign, “For the Greater Great®: The Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change.” Highlighting these gifts is a $13.5 million commitment from Jan and Paul J. Varello, ’65 College of Engineering (COE) – CEO of Sterling Construction Company, Inc. – which marks the second largest ever made to the University. These campaign investments will support the College of Engineering’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,” said the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, Villanova 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.”

Engineering students of today demand a dynamic learning environment, and Villanova’s College of Engineering 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.

“Villanova is a leader in engineering education – with world-class faculty committed to teaching and cutting-edge research, innovative academic programs, and a focus on service learning experiences that give our students the opportunity to impact the world around them,” said Gary Gabriele, PhD, Drosdick Endowed Dean of Engineering at Villanova University. “These four 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 quality engineering education built upon our Augustinian ideals.”

The four campaign 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 COE, CEO of Sterling Construction Company, Inc. The commitment is the largest ever made to the College of Engineering and the second largest in the history of the University. It will support the Engineering Dean’s Strategic Initiatives Fund, empowering successive deans to spend the money wherever and however it is needed, from faculty and student support, to academic programs, to infrastructure and equipment. The size and scope of the gift will fuel the College’s evolution as a premier institution for engineering education in the 21st century.
  • $3 million commitment from Denise and John P. Jones III ’72, retired chairman and CEO of Air Products and Chemicals Inc., to establish the Jones Family Student Learning Commons in a planned expansion of the Center for Engineering Education and Research (CEER). The patio of CEER 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, 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 holder of 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.
  • $2.5 million commitment from Gloria J. and John G. “Jack” Drosdick ‘65, former chairman and CEO of Sunoco Inc., will propel the College to reach new heights through experiential and collaborative learning. The gift will fund a new Engineering Innovation Lab, housed in the Center for Engineering Education and Research (CEER). In this two-story, 3,300-square-foot, open-garage, high-bay space equipped with an overhead crane, students will tackle scalable, real-world projects and carry out research. The new lab is part of a planned expansion of the CEER building.

“We are grateful that these distinguished alumni have chosen to reinvest their success in Villanova’s future,” said Michael J. O’Neill, Senior Vice President for Advancement and Alumni Relations. “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, and to date has raised $423 million toward its $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.

For more information on the Villanova Campaign to Ignite Change, visit

About Villanova University College of Engineering:  Founded in 1905, Villanova University College of Engineering is committed to an educational program that emphasizes technical excellence and a liberal arts education within the framework of the University’s Augustinian Catholic tradition. The result: “Whole-Brain Engineers,” who pursue both knowledge and wisdom, and aspire to ethical and moral leadership within their chosen careers, their community and the world.

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate and law students in the University's six colleges – the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, the College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University School of Law. As students grow intellectually, Villanova prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them. For more, visit