EVANSTON, Ill. (CBS) — Northwestern University announced Wednesday that alumni philanthropists Patrick and Shirley Ryan have made a gift of $480 million – the largest in university history.

The gift will go toward research in biomedicine, economics, and business, and also toward the redevelopment of Ryan Field.

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The gift pushed the “We Will” capital campaign for Northwestern past the $6 billion mark, making it one of the largest fundraising campaigns in the history of higher education.

“I am immensely grateful to Pat and Shirley Ryan and their family for their extraordinary generosity and leadership over many years, which has propelled Northwestern to new heights as a leading research university,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said in a news release. “The Ryan Family’s new gift will have a profound and lasting impact on faculty and student opportunities, including research and discovery. Additionally, our student-athletes, coaches, fans and the community will benefit from their support of Northwestern Athletics and Recreation for many years to come.”

The Ryans’ gift will support many areas of the Feinberg School of Medicine, including a Ryan Family Digital Health Fund that will focus on digital medicine technologies. The fund will help the university develop a digital application to help parents use sensor programs to measure neuromotor performance in infants, among other innovations.

The Ryans’ gift will also endow a new Center for Applied Macroeconomics, and benefit the Kellogg School of Management – of which Pat Ryan is an alumnus.

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Further, the Ryans’ gift will allow for the redevelopment Ryan Field, improving the Wildcats gameday experience for all. Among the plans it will enable are to exceed the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements for accessibility, and to improve environmental sustainability.

“We deeply appreciate the Ryan Family’s enduring dedication to our student-athletes,” Dr. Derrick Gragg, Combe Family Vice President for Athletics and Recreation, said in the release. “The impact of their visionary generosity on past, present and future Wildcats is truly incomparable. The rebuilt Ryan Field will be a world-class venue befitting this institution’s pursuit of excellence in all areas.”

Ryan Field, formerly Dyche Stadium, dates back to 1926. The Ryan family also funded a major renovation project in 1997.

“Shirley and I believe in the power of sports to develop the whole person — mind, body, and soul for all students. This holistic approach prepares Northwestern student-athletes to be the leaders of tomorrow,” Pat Ryan said in the release. “And as long-time fans of all Wildcat teams, we have seen firsthand how powerful Northwestern Athletics can be in building community.”

The largest ever university donation, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, was to Johns Hopkins University from former New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg in 2018. That gift amounted to $1.8 billion for student financial aid.

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By comparison in the Chicago area, the largest ever gift to the University of Chicago was $300 million in 2008 from alumnus David Booth, whose name is now on the Booth School of Business.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff