The University of Chicago News Office
March 15, 1996 Press Contact: Larry Arbeiter
(773) 702-8360 (w)

West Coast Computer Pioneer, Film Producer Gives $5 Million to University of Chicago

Computer pioneer Max Palevsky and his wife, Ellen, are giving a $5 million gift to the University of Chicago to endow the Max and Ellen Palevsky Fund to enhance faculty excellence.

Their gift pushes the University’s Campaign for the Next Century to $618 million. The largest fundraising effort in University history, the five-year campaign is nearing its expanded goal of $650 million, the most money ever raised in Chicago. The Campaign began in 1991 with an original goal of $500 million. The funds will help provide faculty support, student financial aid and construction of an expanded athletics, recreation and fitness complex.

“Max Palevsky is a remarkable man who has had a remarkable impact on our University,” said University President Hugo Sonnenschein. “Over the years, his gifts have supported both academic and extracurricular excellence, and this latest gift will help ensure the continued pre-eminence of our faculty.”

Palevsky’s career has bridged academia, computers, film and the visual arts. The computer companies he founded during the 1960s were among the first serious competitors of IBM, and he was one of the founders of Intel, on whose board he still sits.

“My whole life has been shaped by the time spent as a College student at Chicago,” said Palevsky. “It gave me a notion of, and enthusiasm for, all that was out there in the world. It gave me a sense of the terrain of learning and of the limitless horizons of discovery.”

Palevsky said he felt it important to make a gift to the University’s endowment, but he did not want to put restrictions on the use of the funds. “If the institution doesn’t know better than I how best to use my gift, then I’m probably giving to the wrong institution,” he said.

A Chicago native, he first came to the University for a year to study meteorology as a soldier during World WarII. He returned to Chicago after the war to study mathematics and philosophy. “That first year in meteorology gave me a taste of Chicago, and I wanted more,” he said. He graduated from the College in 1948 with a combined concentration in mathematics and philosophy and then did graduate work at Chicago and at UCLA, where he also taught.

In 1951 he was hired as a logician for the fledgling computer division of Bendix Aircraft. In 1961 he, along with five other former employees of large electronic and computer companies, founded Scientific Data Systems.

In 1969, SDS was sold to Xerox Corp. From 1969 to 1972, Palevsky served as chairman of the executive committee of the board of Xerox. He eventually resigned to form other computer-based corporations, and he also founded a film production company, CinemaX, which produced such films as Fun With Dick and Jane, State of Siege, Marjoeand Islands in the Stream.

He also became active in politics. He organized George McGovern’s successful bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1972 and also organized and ran the first successful Los Angeles mayoral campaign of Tom Bradley.

“It was at Chicago that I got my political bearings,” Palevsky said. “Not that I was taught to be a Republican or Democrat, but I learned the importance of political discourse in a democratic society.”

Palevsky has generously supported the work of Chicago’s faculty for more than 25 years. In 1969 he established the Max Palevsky Fund, an unrestricted fund used at the discretion of the University president to attract and retain the world’s top scholars. Four years later, he endowed the Max Palevsky Professorship of History and Civilization in the College. Palevsky served as a University Trustee from 1972 until 1982.

The most visible symbol of Palevsky’s continuing generosity toward the University is the 500-seat Max Palevsky Cinema in Ida Noyes Hall. The cinema is a focus of extracurricular student life for the campus and is home to the Documentary Film Group, the oldest student-run film organization in the country.

“The University is a special place, and Ellen and I feel a responsibility toward the institution that has given me so much,” Palevsky said. “Chicago has always been a point of reference for others in higher education. Even academics who have not been students or faculty there look to Chicago for leadership. My gifts may shape not only our university but also others. That’s a source of great satisfaction.”
Last modified at 03:50 PM CST on Wednesday, June 14, 2000.

University of Chicago News Office
5801 South Ellis Avenue - Room 200
Chicago, Illinois 60637-1473
(773) 702-8360
Fax: (773) 702-8324
Contact Us