College of LAS « Illinois

Gifts in Action: Robert and Carolyn Springborn

Fulfilling a Promise

Student endowment will help keep Illinois—and the nation—at the forefront of science.

Robert and Carolyn Springborn

In 1951, when Dr. Robert Springborn finished his undergraduate degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois, he asked how he should go about repaying his scholarship. He was told that if he was fortunate in life, he should do something for others. Fifty-six years later, he and his wife Carolyn are fulfilling that call, having recently donated nearly $10 million to the Department of Chemistry.

"We are very appreciative of the education that we received," says Springborn. With their gift, which will fund graduate fellowships, undergraduate scholarships, and post-doctoral fellowships, the Springborns hope to inspire excellence in aspiring chemistry scholars. Their funding of graduate fellowships will be matched under the campus's matching gift program instituted by the Office of the Provost to emphasize and encourage graduate fellowship support.

Springborn Fellows, selected for their creativity and leadership abilities, will be given a stipend of at least $30,000 a year for their first three years of graduate study. They will also receive money to travel to conferences or laboratories associated with interdisciplinary collaborations in their second and third year.

After leaving the University of Illinois, Springborn went on to receive a PhD in organic chemistry from Cornell University. He worked for Monsanto, Borg-Warner Chemical, and W.R. Grace before founding the Springborn Group and Springborn Laboratories, an international and highly successful contract research organization serving industry and consumer product companies.

When Springborn attended Illinois, it was the "Roger Adams Era," and the chemistry program was one of the top in the world. Fifty years later it still is. All four sub-areas in the department—analytical, inorganic, organic, and physical chemistry—are ranked in the top 10 nationwide, making it the only chemistry department in the nation that carries this distinction. The department claims nine Nobelists among its faculty and graduates along with numerous CEOs, 23 presidents of the American Chemical Society, and 13 winners of the Priestly Medal—the highest honor in chemistry.

Now, Springborn wants to help continue that record of excellence and propel the department to the number one status in the country.

"I give for two reasons: I value the education I received and I want to ensure our country can compete scientifically in the future, and Illinois is the best place to invest to achieve both goals," says Springborn.

Thanks to the generosity of the Springborns, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will continue to attract the nation's leading students to the Department of Chemistry.

Learn more about the University's Matching Gift program.