Naming Gift to Transform Education and Research

Longtime supporters pledge $20 million to name the School of Chemical Engineering.

When he was approached about the possibility of making a gift that would result in his name forever being associated with the School of Chemical Engineering, Chuck Davidson (BSChE ’72) was honored — and also surprised to learn the opportunity to make such a transformative commitment was still available.

“I thought it was crazy that this institution had existed for 100+ years and hadn’t been named yet,” he says. “It was time.”

But simply associating his name with the school was not the former energy company CEO’s primary interest. What prompted Davidson, who now serves as a partner for a Houston-based private equity firm, and his wife, Nancy, to make the commitment was the school’s list of strategic initiatives geared toward promoting leadership in both education and research.

“We want students to get the best possible education in facilities that are high quality and in classes taught by outstanding faculty,” Davidson says. “These funds will help carry out that objective, but they’ll also enable the school to advance the science of the discipline itself and continue groundbreaking research.”

Advancing Education and Research

To achieve both goals, the Davidsons are making their $20 million gift in the form of multiple endowments. The annual revenues will allow for recruiting, retaining and advancing top-tier faculty; initiating new teaching and research programs; supporting graduate students; and maintaining and updating research instrumentation. A strategic initiative fund will provide financial support where the newly christened Charles D. Davidson School of Chemical Engineering needs it most.

As part of their commitment to faculty, the Davidsons have established two named professorships, one of which will bear their names. The other is named for Arvind Varma, the recently retired Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering.

“Arvind’s retiring as head was a driver for us to make this gift now so that the school will immediately begin seeing the benefits,” Davidson explains. “Our funds will support the needs he identified as most important — things that will make a difference for a long period of time. This is a legacy he’s leaving for the school, one that will transform its future.”

Steadfast Faculty Supporters

“This gesture just goes to show how generous the Davidsons are,” Varma says. “I’ve known Chuck and Nancy since 2005, and over that time we have become good friends. Their support of the School of Chemical Engineering is steadfast. They have repeatedly supported our greatest needs — every time I asked. The school and I will be forever grateful to them for their generosity.”

For Distinguished Professor Sangtae Kim, the new Jay and Cynthia Ihlenfeld Head of Chemical Engineering, the Davidsons’ gift sets the stage for an exciting future.

“It’s not an exaggeration to say that our younger colleagues have extraordinary ideas that will change the worlds of energy and health care for the better,” he says. “This gift will be the catalyst to support their research and allow it to flower.”

Davidson has high hopes for the future of the school that now bears his name.

“Looking down the road 10 to 20 years, I believe it will be highly recognized for its faculty, for the quality of its graduates, and as an institution that has created a new body of knowledge and made significant discoveries,” he says. “I don’t know what those discoveries will be, but I am sure amazing things will emerge, supported by our gift and others’ gifts.”

“I was honored that Purdue would associate my name with the School of Chemical Engineering. People down the road will have no idea who we were, but they will know that someone cared enough to make an investment in their future.”

To support initiatives in the Charles D. Davidson School of Chemical Engineering, contact Kelly Busch, senior director of development, at 765-494-4065Call 765-494-4065 or