Donaldson Gift to the Illinois Leadership Center Makes History

The Illinois Leadership Center (ILC) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has received the largest outright gift in the history of Student Affairs at Illinois with a $1.17 million gift from Jane and William (“Bill”) Donaldson.

Jane and Bill Donaldson
Jane and Bill Donaldson

The extraordinary gift will establish the Donaldson Leader in Residence Program, intended to bring impactful University of Illinois alumni to campus for a series of formal and informal forums, engaging with students, faculty, university leaders, and the broader campus and local communities.

“Jane and Bill Donaldson have been longtime supporters of the University of Illinois and the Illinois Leadership® Center.  We are grateful to them for their latest investment in our students’ leadership development,” said Dr. Gayle Spencer, Director of the Illinois Leadership Center.  “The Donaldsons’ generosity will create groundbreaking opportunities for immersive engagement, focused on exemplary leadership competencies and real-world experience.”

The Donaldson Leader in Residence Program represents an integral connection to the campus strategic priorities to provide transformative learning experiences and make a significant and visible societal impact. Through this new program, the Illinois Leadership Center will optimize collaborative partnerships across campus and create new, innovative, and relevant opportunities.

“The Donaldson Leader in Residence Program will create critical new links between our students and our alumni,” said Chancellor Robert J. Jones. “Preparing our students to be the leaders of their generation has long been an Illinois hallmark. Jane and Bill’s visionary gift will enable our students to learn those skills more directly from our graduates who have been putting them into measurable action in their lives and careers.”

“Jane has given so much to her alma mater over the years, volunteering her talents to help build the financial and alumni support that makes our state’s flagship university system the very best,” President Tim Killeen said. “Now, Jane and Bill’s generous gift will create even more opportunities, engaging successful graduates like herself whose real-life experiences will transform the lives of students for generations to come.”

In addition to establishing the Donaldson Leader in Residence Program, their gift will establish the Donaldson Student Leader Retreat, a comprehensive leadership training program for officers of registered student organizations. The Retreat is designed to provide these students with the opportunity to develop and strengthen skills and competencies to effectively lead a student organization; to see and value the importance of collaboration; to create a sustainable leadership transition plan for their organization; and to understand how to work with campus policies related to student organizations.  The Donaldsons’ gift will also support a pilot longitudinal study of Illinois graduates who have participated in ILC programs to determine how such participation is related to professional and personal success post-graduation.

“We are truly grateful to Jane and Bill for their insight, vision, and for their steadfast support of student leadership at Illinois since 1992,” said Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs, Dr. Danita M. B. Young.  “We are humbled by this extraordinary investment in student leadership, which represents the largest donation that the Donaldsons have made to the University of Illinois.  This is an historic milestone for Student Affairs that will provide pivotal transformative opportunities for our students for generations to come.”

Jane Phillips Donaldson, a University of Illinois alumna, is a partner at Phillips Oppenheim, an executive search firm serving non- profits, which she co-founded in 1991.  Previously, she was associate director of undergraduate admissions at Yale College, dean of admissions at Wesleyan University, and founding director of admissions and placement at the Yale School of Management. Ms. Donaldson received a B.A. in the Teaching of English from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (LAS) in 1965, and an M.S. in Journalism from the College of Media in 1967.  Ms. Donaldson is a member and past chair of the University of Illinois Foundation Board of Directors and a former member of the College of Media’s National Advisory Board.  She received the University of Illinois Alumni Distinguished Service Award in 2016 and the LAS Quadrangle Award in 2012.  Ms. Donaldson is a third-generation Illini.

Bill Donaldson served as chairman of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Under Secretary of State for International Affairs during the Nixon Administration, chairman and CEO of the New York Stock Exchange, and Chairman, President, and CEO of Aetna.   Mr. Donaldson co-founded and led the investment banking firm Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette and was the founding dean of the Yale School of Management. He is a Marine Corps Veteran and a graduate of Yale University and Harvard University School of Business, where he received an MBA with Distinction.

The Donaldsons have three children, Kimberly, Matthew, and Adam.

“Leadership participation in one’s college community cannot be underestimated as a personal ‘pilot program’ and testing ground for future leadership roles professionally and personally,” commented Ms. Donaldson.  “My experience as a Star Course senior manager and as president of Chi Omega, my sorority, was invaluable as I progressed in my career and volunteer work.  Just wish there had been a student leader retreat back then!” she added.

“Jane introduced me to the University of Illinois years ago, and my respect for the institution has continued to grow,” said Mr. Donaldson.  “We are delighted to help make possible a more intense focus on leadership training at the University.  The country is certainly in need of leadership strength throughout all sectors.”

About the Illinois Leadership Center
The nationally recognized Illinois Leadership Center (ILC) was established in 2002 through the Anthony Petullo Fund for Student Leadership Endowment and is a global innovator in research and experiential leadership education.  The ILC currently serves more than 12,000 students annually through leadership programs and workshops and interdisciplinary collaboration across campus on topics including student learning, diversity and inclusion, collaboration, integrity, and innovation and continuous improvement for all Illinois students.  Learn more about the Illinois Leadership Center at

About Student Affairs at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Student Affairs at Illinois promotes global leadership in a diverse society, offers health and lifelong wellness initiatives, and facilitates cross-cultural engagement.  Through exceptional programming, relevant services, progressive facilities, and vibrant living/learning environments across campus, Student Affairs creates an experience that empowers students to achieve their greatest potential personally and academically. Learn more about Student Affairs at