NU gets $10M to endow engineering professorships


Two couples, who long have been active supporters of Northwestern University, have given a total of $10 million to endow two new professorships in the fields of industrial engineering and computer science.

With technology pervading virtually every aspect of life today, the professorships will strengthen the McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science's emphasis on computer science and systems.

Peter Barris, a Northwestern alumnus and member of the university’s board of trustees, and his wife, Adrienne Barris, have given $5 million to endow a new professorship in McCormick’s department of electrical engineering and computer science.

And Northwestern alumnus and trustee David A. Sachs and his wife, Karen Richards Sachs, have given $5 million to endow a professorship in McCormick’s industrial engineering and management sciences department.  

The two endowed professorships will add momentum to McCormick’s innovative scholarship and teaching as well as to the reach of computer science and systems across Northwestern’s campuses and a variety of disciplines.

“We are grateful for the dedication, leadership and support of Peter and Adrienne Barris and David and Karen Sachs over the years,” Northwestern President Morton Schapiro said.

“We are particularly thankful for these latest gifts,” he said. “They recognize how critical computational thinking and analysis are in today’s world and, accordingly, to our students’ lives and futures.”

Enrollments in engineering fields are up at Northwestern. For example, the number of computer science majors at McCormick has doubled during the last five years. Understanding the technologies that govern our lives also is becoming increasingly important to many other students who are taking courses that used to be taken only by computer science majors.

“Peter and Adrienne Barris and David and Karen Sachs are great friends who share our considerable ambitions for McCormick,” McCormick Dean Julio Ottino said.

“They understand that if our students are to lead, they must engage in whole-brain engineering, a McCormick emphasis, which means learning the nonnegotiable analytical skills needed to solve problems as well as engaging the critical right-brain skills needed for innovation,” he said.

Narrative Science, a company that uses a computer program to automatically generate news stories, illustrates the innovative, interdisciplinary work being done at McCormick.

Founded by two professors in the department of electrical engineering and computer science, the company was the result of a collaboration between McCormick and Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Media, Integrated Marketing Communications.

Initially, the software automatically generated sports stories using box scores and play-by-plays and now produces articles that have been published in Forbes and other Internet sites. 

Peter Barris is managing general partner of New Enterprise Associates, a venture capital firm and specializes in information technology companies. Adrienne Barris is a committee member of the National Fund for the United States Botanic Garden and is a member of Northwestern’s Women’s Board.

David Sachs is senior partner at Ares Management LLC, an investment management firm he cofounded in 1997. Karen Richards Sachs is a trustee of The Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles.

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