Pat and Shirley Ryan.

The Patrick and Shirley Ryan Family has made the largest single gift in Northwestern University’s history, a $480 million gift that will accelerate breakthroughs in biomedical, economics and business research and enable the school to redevelop Ryan Field.

It pushes the university’s “We Will” fundraising campaign over 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 statement.

The funding for the Feinberg School of Medicine will help develop digital medicine technologies, research in neuroscience and research on global health issues.

A new center for applied microeconomics will strengthen the university’s economics department and major support for the Kellogg School of Management, where Pat Ryan and two of his sons received degrees, will “enhance our forward-looking programs,” said Dean Francesca Cornelli.

Ryan Field.

One goal of the funding for the redevelopment of the school’s football stadium, Ryan Field, the school says, is to exceed Americans With Disabilities Act requirements and make the stadium exceptionally accessible and welcoming to all attendees.

Patrick Ryan founded and served for 41 years as CEO of Aon Corporation, the leading global provider of risk management, insurance and reinsurance brokerage. At the time of his retirement, Aon had nearly $8 billion in annual revenue with more than 500 offices in 120 countries.

In 2010, he founded Ryan Specialty Group, a rapidly growing service provider of specialty products and solutions for insurance brokers, agents and carriers. The company provides distribution, underwriting, product development, administration and risk management services by acting as a wholesale broker and a managing underwriter and completed its initial public offering in July.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.