It was a historic evening at UC Santa Barbara as Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley donated $50 million, the largest gift the school has ever received, to the Institute for Energy Efficiency and the College of Engineering.
The donation, one of the largest recorded in the region, was announced at the Campaign for UC Santa Barbara’s kickoff event on May 12 at UCSB’s Bren Hall. Henley, who graduated from UCSB in 1966 and helped found the Institute for Energy Efficiency, is one of the university’s biggest benefactors. The multi-year campaign started in 2004 with a goal of raising $350 million. Since then, it has raised $710 million and the university has upped the goal to $1 billion.
The gift from Henley and his wife Judy–an honorary alum since 2009–will fund scientific research at the university. It’s divided into two pieces: $30 million is earmarked to build a new hall at the Institute for Energy Efficiency, and $20 million is set to go to the College of Engineering for general use.
“We call this an investment in the school, not a gift,” Henley said at the kickoff event. “I know a few students at the Institute for Energy Efficiency who said they were choosing between UCSB and Berkeley. They said they came here because of the institute. And kids today need really good equipment and they need labs and space to study technology.”
One of the institute’s biggest projects is the development of an LED light with 20 times the efficiency of an incandescent bulb. Another is a computer that can generate, transmit and store data 100 times faster than the ones that exist today.
UCSB’s College of Engineering is consistently ranked among the top engineering schools in the country and the world. Last year, the college had 1,345 undergraduate students and 753 graduate students.
“The philanthropic leadership of Jeff and Judy Henley is deeply inspiring; we are thrilled by their vision and generosity, and excited about the momentum their gift provides as we launch the next phase of our billion-dollar Campaign for UC Santa Barbara,” Chancellor Henry Yang said in a news release. “Jeff and Judy have contributed to our university in countless ways over the years, including the Henley Chair in Economics and the beautiful Henley Gate that stands as the iconic entrance to our campus. We are tremendously honored that this transformative $50 million gift will become part of they Henleys’ living legacy at UC Santa Barbara.”
In addition to the gate and economic chair position, the Henleys have also donated to the school’s intercollegiate athletics department and made other gifts to the College of Engineering. At the event, Henley said the donation to UCSB is the largest he and his wife have ever made.
“UCSB is the best-kept secret in the world,” Henley said. “I went here in the 1960’s, and one of the great things about the school is that it makes no apologies for being fun. I was a serious student, but I went to the beach and had a lot of fun. We made this donation because we finally found something we thought was worth this investment.”
Henley serves as Chairman of the Board at Oracle, a hardware and software engineering company based in Redwood Shores. He was Oracle’s chief financial officer from 1991 to 2004.