The University of Chicago News Office
June 5, 2002 Press Contact: Larry Arbeiter
(773) 702-8360 (w)

Pritzker family donates $30 million to the University of Chicago

The Pritzker family of Chicago, widely known philanthropists whose many business ventures include the Hyatt Hotel chain, has announced that it is making a gift of $30 million to the University of Chicago. The gift is part of the University’s recently announced $2 billion fund-raising campaign, The Chicago Initiative, and it will specifically support the University’s Biological Sciences Division and its Pritzker School of Medicine, which was named for the family in 1968.

The Pritzker Foundation, whose board includes Robert Pritzker, Thomas Pritzker, Nicholas Pritzker and Penny Pritzker, is making this gift on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the founding of Pritzker and Pritzker, which is the family law firm.

Speaking for the family, Thomas Pritzker said, “Our family has prospered in Chicago and has always felt an obligation to give back to the community. Nicholas J. Pritzker founded the law firm of Pritzker and Pritzker on June 5, 1902. We thought it appropriate to mark this event with this gift.

“We have long supported the University of Chicago and the medical school that bears our name and we chose to make this new gift for two reasons. The first is our longstanding pride in the University’s advancement of human knowledge, especially in medical research and the training of many of the nation’s leading physicians and scientists, and in the important work they have done to help improve the lives of so many. The second is our sincere belief that with our support and that of other like-minded people, the University will continue to be the best place to invest in future discoveries.”

In November of 1881, at the age of 10, Nicholas J. Pritzker and his family emigrated from Kiev and arrived penniless in Chicago. Nicholas taught himself English by reading the newspaper with the support of an English-German and a German-Russian dictionary. After selling newspapers on the corner, he became a tailor’s assistant and then a licensed pharmacist. Finally, at the age of 30, he graduated from law school, which he attended at night. On June 5, 1902, Nicholas opened his law practice. His three sons also became lawyers, but they eventually turned to business.

As Thomas Pritzker noted, “Nicholas grew up with two imperatives — education and charity. With this gift, we hope to further both of those imperatives.”

“I am extremely grateful to the Pritzker family for this magnificent gift,” said University of Chicago President Don Michael Randel. “It comes at a very important moment in the history of science and a very important moment in the history of the University. By providing this gift now, the Pritzkers will build on a long tradition of biomedical research at the University of Chicago, ensuring the benefits of that research for generations to come.”

According to James Madara, recently appointed Dean of the Biological Sciences Division, the initial plan for use of the gift is to recruit outstanding new faculty in clusters to focus on the most promising areas of research and treatment. These “Pritzker scholars” will, he said, form “uniquely synergistic and powerful groups” of investigators.

“I cannot imagine a more auspicious way to be welcomed into my new position,” said Madara, who was appointed Dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine and Vice President for Medical Affairs by President Randel in December and will take office July 1.

One of the nation’s leading academic physicians, with considerable experience in the clinical application of scientific discoveries, Madara described the magnitude, flexibility and timing of the gift as “a brilliant choice at the perfect time.”

“Scientific discovery is advancing more rapidly than ever,” he said, “especially at the interface between the biological sciences and the physical and social sciences. From the neurosciences to genetics to cancer biology, important and far-reaching discoveries are changing the face of medicine. This very generous and wise gift from the Pritzker family will help us speed up that process. It will lead to discoveries and new therapies that will enable us to provide better care now and well into the future.”

In addition to their support for the Pritzker School of Medicine and the Biological Sciences, the Pritzker family has also provided substantial support for the University of Chicago Law School and the University’s work in South Asian Studies and Astronomy & Astrophysics.

Thomas Pritzker (J.D./M.B.A.’76) is on the Executive Committee of the Board of Trustees. Nicholas Pritzker (J.D.’75) serves on the Physical Sciences Division Visiting Committee; J.B. Pritzker serves on the Visiting Committee for the School of Social Service Administration; and Margot Pritzker serves on the Visiting Committee on the Visual Arts. Susan Pritzker and Cindy Pritzker are also members of the University’s Women’s Board, and Jay Pritzker was a Life Trustee of the University at the time of his death in 1999.

Chartered in 1890, the University of Chicago is known as one of the world’s great centers of teaching and research. Six Nobel laureates are currently on the faculty, and 73 laureates have been students, faculty or researchers at the University. According to the National Research Council, 20 of the University’s academic departments rank nationally in the top 10, including, within the Biological Sciences Division, the Department of Ecology and Evolution, which is ranked first. Researchers in the Biological Sciences at Chicago are particularly well known for their discoveries in the fields of cancer, diabetes, digestive diseases, sleep research and transplantation.
Last modified at 04:55 PM CST on Wednesday, June 05, 2002.

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