The spire of the Wilbur Cross building at UConn rises above the campus in this July, 2019 photograph. G.J. McCarthy / UConn Foundation

The UConn Foundation announced Thursday that it has received $3 million from an anonymous donor to establish two endowed chairs for scientists in ecology and evolutionary biology.

The gift means the university will be able to recruit and retain two of the “best scientists in the field,” according to a statement from the foundation, which is the university’s fundraising arm.

“This is completely unprecedented,” said Eric Schultz, a professor in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology. “No department in the University has been granted two endowed chairs simultaneously like this. It represents a substantial and absolutely incredible opportunity for us.”

Ecology and Evolutionary Biology faculty and staff investigate and teach about the earth’s heritage of biological diversity, an important area of research given the high rate of human-caused extinctions, Schultz said.

The two positions can be used to recruit scholars to the department or to support current faculty members, the foundation said. The chairs are named after the Shakespearean characters Titania and Prospero in honor of the donor, who is described by the foundation as “a lifelong student of the Bard.”

Gift to boost tuition-free program to be announced soon

UConn also said Thursday that Synchrony, a consumer financial services company, will soon announce a significant philanthropic gift to support the “Connecticut Commitment” program — the university’s plan to enable lower-income students from Connecticut to attend the university tuition-free starting in the fall.

In a statement, UConn said that Synchrony executives will announce the gift Monday when they join UConn leaders at a celebration of the opening of the Synchrony Digital Technology Center at UConn Stamford.

The center gives UConn Stamford students an opportunity to work as user experience designers and software engineers, and learn from Synchrony employees on a day-to-day basis, the university said.

Kathleen Megan wrote for more than three decades for the Hartford Courant, covering education in recent years and winning many regional and national awards. She is now covering education and child welfare issues for the Mirror.

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  1. Always worth pointing out when UCONN is mentioned is that Yale’s alumni/friends donate more each year to Yale than UCONN’s entire endowment. We’d be far better off shifting some of UCONN’s $2 billion budget (10% of CT State budget) to funding the underfunded public schools of our severely depressed major cities – Bridgeport, New Haven, Hartford- where per capita incomes are just one half the CT State average. But CT Legislators favor UCONN.

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