A gift of about $5.6 million to Northwestern University from Nicholas D. and Eleanor B. Chabraja will support a center with an innovative approach to the study of history and several other university programs.

As part of We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern, the gift continues support for the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies in the Judd A. and Marjorie Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences.

The Chabraja gift also supports the Weinberg College annual fund, the School of Law annual fund, the department of athletics and recreation and its Wildcat Fund, the Women’s Board and the Renée and Lester Crown Speaker Series, launched in 2013 to promote a better understanding of Israeli culture, politics and society.

Nicholas Chabraja is a 1964 alumnus of Weinberg, a 1967 graduate of the School of Law and a member of Northwestern’s Board of Trustees. 

In honor of the Chabrajas’ generosity and the fifth anniversary of the Chabraja Center, NU President Morton Schapiro and Mimi Schapiro hosted a celebration at their home Tuesday evening.

“This new gift will greatly enhance the Chabraja Center’s mission while supporting other worthy areas of the University,” Schapiro said. “We are deeply grateful for Nick and Eleanor’s generosity.”

The center was established in 2006 and named for Nicholas Chabraja in 2010 in recognition of his significant endowment gift. The Chabraja Center has thrived as an intellectual community both for the history department and for scholars across the University interested in historical inquiry. In recent years, several high-profile historians hosted by the center have shared their ongoing work with faculty, graduate students, undergraduates and the public at large.

The Chabrajas’ latest gift to the center will support expansion of graduate education programs, including fellowships, graduate student-led conferences and dissertation research, both within and outside of the department of history. This funding also will support undergraduate research opportunities and the further development of international initiatives, including a student exchange with Queen Mary University in London and collaboration with Hong Kong University’s graduate history program.

“The Chabraja Center’s impact on graduate and undergraduate research is felt University-wide,” said Daniel Linzer, Northwestern University provost. “History is one of the top-ranked and most popular departments in Weinberg, and we are committed to building a continuous pipeline of promising scholars throughout the University who take historical approaches in their work.”

The Chabraja Center partners with the Chicago History Museum and the Newberry Library as well as the Northwestern University Library, Center for African American History, Holocaust Educational Foundation and Classical Traditions Initiative to offer joint and interdisciplinary programming.

“The Chabraja family’s generosity has sustained us from the start,” said Sarah Maza, director of the Chabraja Center and Jane Long Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern.

“The Chabrajas’ recent gift will enable us to expand our programming and explore connections with the department of political science and the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies on history and policy initiatives,” Maza said. “We also will be looking for ways to utilize our resources to enrich the experience of undergraduate students in history courses.”

Eleanor Chabraja has been a member of the Northwestern Women’s Board since 2003. The Chabrajas have supported a number of areas throughout the University, including Weinberg College, the School of Law, the Bienen School of Music, athletics and recreation, Northwestern Medicine and the Lambda Chi Alpha Building Fund.

Nicholas Chabraja frequently cites his gratitude to the late Richard W. Leopold, the legendary Northwestern history professor. According to Chabraja, Leopold influenced his thinking and problem solving throughout his career. The Chabraja Center offers an undergraduate program that honors the teaching and scholarship of Leopold, who was a much beloved and longtime history professor.

“Eleanor and I really believe in the mission of the Center for Historical Studies,” Nicholas Chabraja said. “The additional fellowship support can be leveraged to recruit, retain and support exemplary students pursuing advanced graduate work.”

Nicholas Chabraja is the former chairman and CEO of General Dynamics Corp. (1997 to 2010), a global manufacturer of defense, aerospace and other technology products. Since retiring, he has served as a director of the company. He also serves on the board of Northern Trust Corporation and is the non-executive chairman of Tower International Inc.

Before his career at General Dynamics, Chabraja was a litigation partner at the law firm of Jenner & Block for 22 years. In 1986, he was appointed special trial counsel to the U.S. House of Representatives for the impeachment trial of Judge Harry Claiborne before the U.S. Senate, the first impeachment trial in 50 years.

A retired teacher, Eleanor Chabraja currently serves on the board of directors of the Naples Botanical Garden. Previously, she was on the board of directors for The Bexley Seabury Federation.

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