CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (AP) — A $100 million donation to the University of Illinois College of Engineering will be used to recruit and retain top professors and to finance research in bioengineering and other areas, university officials said Monday.

The donation from The Grainger Foundation in Chicago is by far the largest ever made to the engineering school, spokesman Bill Bell said. The second largest was $32 million donated in 2001 by university graduate Thomas Siebel for the Siebel Center for Computer Science.

“We are tremendously grateful for this extraordinary gift from The Grainger Foundation, which is an investment in the future of engineering, the future of our engineering faculty and students, and, indeed, an investment in the campus as a whole,” Urbana-Champaign campus Chancellor Phyllis Wise said in a news release.

About $40 million will be used to create 26 new chairs and professor positions focused on bioengineering and what’s often called simply Big Data — the gathering, storage and analysis of huge amounts of data generated by study in a variety of fields.

Other money will be used as seed money for campaigns to raise $100 million for engineering scholarships and finance the renovation of the Everitt Laboratory, which is home to the university’s electrical and computer engineering programs.

The Grainger Foundation donation is being made in honor of William Grainger, who graduated from the university with an engineering degree in 1919 and founded the Chicago-based industrial supply company W.W. Grainger, Inc.

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