Billionaire Tom Siebel Donates $50M to the University of Illinois for Data Science Research

The tech executive has also funded centers for computer science and design at the school.

Man in blue button up stands with arms crossed, sky in background
Tom Siebel in 2017 in Redwood City, California. Courtesy University of Illinois

Tom Siebel, the billionaire head of artificial intelligence (A.I.) company C3.ai, is funneling $50 million into data science research and education at his alma mater. The tech CEO’s donation to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign will transform its computer science department into the Siebel School of Computing and Data Science.

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The new school, pending approval from the University of Illinois Board of Trustees and Illinois Board of Higher Education, will be part of the university’s Grainger College of Engineering. Its establishment “exemplifies the University of Illinois’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of knowledge and fostering collaborative solutions to global challenges,” said Grainger’s dean Rashid Bashir in a statement. “This transformative gift will empower our faculty and students to lead the next generation of technological advancements, further solidifying our position as a world-renowned institution.”

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The donation will help the university keep up with the rapid pace of research into computing and data science, which have become a key aspect of engineering alongside physical sciences and mathematical sciences, Bashir told Government Technology magazine. Siebel’s funds will reportedly support research project opportunities, in addition to funding a new building for the school.

Siebel has close ties to his alma mater

Siebel grew up in Chicago and earned three degrees—a bachelor’s in history, an MBA and a master’s in computer science—from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign before going on to work as an executive at tech company Oracle. He subsequently created the software firm Siebel Systems and sold it to Oracle in 2006 for $5.8 billion.

He currently has an estimated net worth of $3.7 billion and has since 2009 run C3.ai, which specializes in utilizing enterprise A.I. to aid large-scale companies. It counts the U.S. Air Force, Department of Defense, Shell and Con Edison (ED) among its customers.

“We are thrilled to partner with the University of Illinois to establish the Siebel School of Computing and Data Science,” said Siebel in a statement. “By supporting cutting-edge research and fostering innovation, we hope to empower future generations of leaders in technology and society, driving positive change in our world.”

This isn’t the first time Siebel has used his fortune to give back to the educational institution. He donated $32 million in 1999 to create a computer science center and another $25 million in 2016 to create a design center, in addition to giving $100 million to its science and engineering programs in 2007.

In 2019, Siebel’s C3.ai launched a generous education benefit that reimburses eligible employees who pursue master’s degrees in computer science with a focus on data science at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. In addition to covering the total degree cost, the company offers employee graduates a 15 percent salary increase, $25,000 cash bonus and stock awards.

Billionaire Tom Siebel Donates $50M to the University of Illinois for Data Science Research