When the Pacific Coast Business Times selected Oracle Chairman Jeff Henley to join the first class of our Business Hall of Fame, the choice was based mainly on his past accomplishments.
As chief financial officer and later chairman of the software giant, Henley had been a longtime sounding board, strategic advisor and close confidant of CEO Larry Ellison. He has also cemented himself in the Santa Barbara community through his philanthropic efforts, including large donations to his alma mater, UC Santa Barbara.
At his induction into our inaugural Hall of Fame in 2010, Henley told a charming story about a disgruntled shareholder, a note and a dog that unexpectedly arrived on his doorstep. But our selection of him has proved to be quite prescient.
In a move that garnered headlines across California, he and his wife, Judy, announced on May 12 that UC Santa Barbara’s Institute for Energy Efficiency and its College of Engineering would share a $50 million gift. Part of the donation will go to a state-of-the-art facility to permanently house the institute on the UCSB campus.
To get a feel for the size of Henley’s gift — the largest in the school’s history — consider that when Gov. Jerry Brown announced his $8.2 billion plan to cut spending, he proposed taking away $38 million from the entire UC system.
Moreover, the timing and wide publicity given to Henley and UCSB make it close to a sure bet that Chancellor Henry Yang will fulfill his goal of raising at least $1 billion in gifts and endowments to put the university on sure footing for decades to come.
Although the Goleta campus gets funding from the state to support its undergraduate programs, it’s long past the time when it received the majority of its funding from state tax coffers. These days, grants, government contracts and private funding are the engines that drive the school’s research in the sciences, engineering and even social sciences and humanities. Henley’s money will support the university’s research into innovative technology for reducing energy costs as well as research into the economics of energy efficiency and, of course, more energy efficient computers to run the software produced by Oracle and others.
In sales and in fundraising, momentum counts for a lot. Judy and Jeff Henley have put a big gust of wind in UCSB’s sails as it strives for the $1 billion goal.