October 7, 2021
To: Members of the University Community
From: Paul Alivisatos, President
Subject: Arley D. Cathey Gift and Challenge
Date: October 7, 2021
I am pleased to announce that the University of Chicago will further undergraduate education and access through a $50 million gift from the late Arley D. Cathey, PhB’50, a devoted College alumnus and patron of the University. The bequest, the largest estate gift in University history, was directed to UChicago when Arley died in 2020 at the age of 93. It will support UChicago’s commitments to educational access and financial aid, enhanced opportunities for undergraduate research, and new international educational programs for College students and research collaborations sponsored by UChicago faculty abroad.
In honor of the gift, the College is launching a $20 million match campaign, called the Arley D. Cathey Odyssey Challenge, to support the Odyssey Scholarship Program. More than 5,300 students have accessed UChicago through the Odyssey program, the University’s flagship financial aid initiative, which helps ensure need-blind, loan-free education for students. The challenge, in conjunction with the $200 million commitment to educational access and financial aid announced by the University in August, will help continue the mentorship, study abroad, and paid internships made possible through the program, along with the elimination of loans and academic-year work requirements.
This gift and challenge culminate nearly a decade of Arley’s substantial philanthropic support to the University.
Recognizable to students by his signature bowtie collection, Arley enrolled in the College at age 16 and returned to campus numerous times. He often remarked that reading classic texts like the Iliad and the Odyssey as part of the Core curriculum were transformative experiences.
The result was a boundless dedication to and respect for UChicago, which he expressed philanthropically in 2012 when he pledged his residuary estate — then valued at approximately $17 million — to support projects that benefited students while preserving the educational mission of the University and College. In gratitude, the University named the iconic Harper Library Reading Room and Stuart North Reading Room as the Arley D. Cathey Learning Center and created the residential Cathey House and Cathey Dining Commons in honor of his father, Arley Cathey Sr.
I am deeply grateful for Arley’s generosity. His gift emphasizes the importance of UChicago’s transformative education as well as the University’s unwavering commitment to ensuring access for talented students worldwide, regardless of financial circumstances.