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SOA News: Tom Siebel Gives $100 Million Gift to University of Illinois

Grant is More than Twice the Next-Largest Gift Ever

Siebel Systems founder and former chairman Tom Siebel has reportedly given a gift worth $100 million to his alma mater, the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. This is more than twice the size of the next-largest gift ever granted to this major public university, which has been a center of supercomputing for decades and also includes among its alums Netscape founder Mark Andreessen.

Tom Siebel (pictured below) graduated from the U. of I. in 1975, then later earned two master's degrees from this major public institution, which has more than 30,000 undergraduates and is one of the better educational institutions in a state that also includes the University of Chicago, Northwestern University, and Knox College (where Bill Clinton will deliver the commencent address this year.)

"(Siebel's gift) is the most exciting thing to happen at this university in terms of philanthropy," Urbana-Champaign chancellor Richard Herman reportedly said. "It's a gift of passion, one that will mean transformation for us." Siebel's gift is more than twice the size of the next-largest gift ever granted to the university, and is three times larger than a previous gift of $32 million that he provided earlier to fund a new computer science building.

The university spends more than half a billion dollars each year on research in various scientific fields.

Siebel rose through the ranks as a sales-oriented executive with Oracle, before leaving in the 1990s to form his eponymous company. It grew rapidly, making key acquisitions and riding the crest of the dot-com boom while establishing itself as the premier vendor of customer relationship management (CRM) software. Tom Siebel became a billionaire as the company grew, even as its highly aggressive culture resulted in a number of unfavorable customer survey results conduced by independent analysts and as the company increasingly ventured into the crosshairs of Siebel's former employer Oracle.

Siebel Systems became valued well in excess of $50 billion during the height of the dot-com boom, before crashing back to earth in the 2000-2002 period along with almost every other technology company. Oracle founder and chairman Larry Ellison (another Illinois native coincidentally) finally led his company to an acquisition of Siebel in late 2005 for around $5.8 billion in cash and securities.

Despite naming his company after himself--and his and his former company's reputation for aggressive sales and leadership--Tom Siebel has kept a relatively low profile throughout the years. He made the gossip columns in the San Francisco Bay Area in the recent past when it was reported that he rented an entire luxury hotel in Mexico as part of his wife's 40th birthday celebration.

But he offered no comment on that, and his public speaking manner has consistently been one of delivering straightforward, slightly pointed remarks about the success his company was having with its customers. He did not have the reputation of delivering highly provocative, sweeping statements along the lines of his former boss Ellison or another high-profile ex-Oracle exec, salesforce.com's Marc Benioff. His nine-figure gift to the University of Illinois appears to remain in that tradition--grand thinking but in an understated manner, at least by the standards of the technology industry.


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SOA World Magazine News Desk trawls the world of distributed computing and SOA-related developments for the latest word on technologies, standards, products, and services and brings key information to you in a timely and convenient summary form.

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