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Donors pledge $14 million for Brazilian studies institute at Illinois

2/20/2009 | Jeff Unger, News Bureau | 217-333-1085; news@illinois.edu
Don Kojich, University of Illinois Foundation | 217-333-8658; dkojich@uif.uillinois.edu

[ Email | Share ] CHAMPAIGN, Ill. – Jorge Paulo Lemann, of Jona, Switzerland, and his family have pledged to give $14 million to establish a Brazilian studies institute at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

The gift is the largest ever to the university from non-alumni.

The Lemann Institute will build on the university’s existing programs and initiatives related to Brazil to create one of the leading Brazilian studies programs in the nation.

The institute will be based in the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and in International Programs and Studies.

“Our gift stems from our appreciation of the university’s contribution in attracting an increasing number of talented Brazilians and in enhancing their education,” Jorge Paulo Lemann said. “They, in turn, positively affect Brazilian development and society, as evidenced by the number of Illinois graduates in important jobs throughout Brazil. The creation of the institute will build on these efforts.”

The institute will complement other academic and research initiatives in key world regions by expanding upon the robust relationships the university has developed with Brazilian institutions.

It will increase opportunities for scholarly exchange, expand opportunities for students and faculty members to gain firsthand knowledge of Brazil through in-country study and research. The institute also will help prepare the next generation of Brazilian leaders through graduate and professional training opportunities.

“This magnificent gift from the Lemann family will enable us to achieve our goal of establishing a comprehensive, world-class program in Brazilian studies that encompasses undergraduate and graduate study, visiting students and scholars from Brazil, faculty research and exchange, and engagement with leading Brazilian scholars, professionals, and government representatives,” said Richard Herman, the chancellor of the Urbana campus. “It is truly an honor for our institution to be the site of this unique program, and we are deeply grateful to the Lemann family for their generous gift.”

Lemann, who was born in Brazil in 1939 to Swiss immigrants, earned a bachelor’s degree from Harvard University in 1961. In 1971, he and three partners founded Banco Garantia, a Brazilian investment banking firm, which became one of Brazil's most prestigious investment banks. Lemann is a partner of GP Investimentos, a private equity firm with interests in communications, railways, real estate, amusement, and Internet and technology ventures.

He and his partners also bought control of a Brazilian brewery that became AmBev, the dominant brewing company in South America. The company merged with Interbrew of Belgium.

Lemann was Swiss national tennis champion in 1962 and the Brazilian national champion five times between 1967 and 1976. In the 1980s and 1990s he won the International Tennis Federation’s world veteran tournament three times in the over-45 and over-50 age categories.

“This generous gift enables the development of an innovative, comprehensive program of study and exchange between the scholars at Illinois and in Brazil,” said Ruth Watkins, the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“The Lemann Institute is ideally positioned within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences: LAS has an established record of excellence in area studies, and national leadership in its Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies.”

The Jorge Paulo Lemann Endowed Chair in Brazilian History will be the centerpiece of the institute and will be held by an internationally renowned scholar. The institute also will have a distinguished visiting Brazilian scholars program that will enable leading Brazilian intellectuals to pursue significant research and writing projects, interact with faculty members and students at the Urbana campus, and contribute to the institute’s academic program through teaching, collaborative research, conference participation, and other means.

Collaborative research awards will support joint research between faculty members and graduate students at Urbana and their counterparts in Brazilian institutions. Lemann research fellowships will support research by faculty members and graduate students at Urbana on any aspect of Brazilian culture and society, such as business and economics, history, political science, language and literature, and other fields.

In the area of graduate and undergraduate education, the award will provide endowed graduate fellowships for study related to Brazil, travel and study fellowships (to enable a Brazilian graduate student to spend a year studying at the U. of I., study-abroad scholarships for undergraduate U. of I. students to study in Brazil for a semester, and undergraduate U. of I. scholarships for research on Brazil.

The Lemann Brazil Leadership Fund will provide short-term leadership fellowships to Brazilian professionals and government officials who wish to participate in one of the U. of I.’s short-term executive-training programs, and long-term fellowships to highly qualified young professionals from Brazil to earn a master’s degree in policy economics or other appropriate graduate programs.

The gift also will provide for conferences, publications, seminars and workshops on Brazilian topics that will involve institute participants, along with scholars and public- and private-sector representatives from Brazil; a lecture series; and support for enhancing the campus’s Portuguese language program.

Planning for the institute is under way, and some programs are expected to begin this year. The institute will hire its own director.

The Lemanns’ gifts to the U. of I. also have been significant: $1.5 million for the Lemann Chair in Economics, $500,000 for the Jorge Lemann Scholars Fund, and $350,000 for the Lemann-Illinois Brazil Collaborative research program. The Jorge Paulo Lemann Chair in Economics is held by professor Werner Baer, one of the world’s foremost experts on the Brazilian economy.

The Lemanns’ latest gift is a significant addition to the university’s Brilliant Futures Campaign, which was publicly launched June 1, 2007. The campaign officially began on July 1, 2003, kicking off its “quiet phase” and will continue through 2011. Of the $2.25 billion campaign objective, $1.5 billion is the goal for the Urbana-Champaign campus; $650 million for the Chicago campus and $28 million for the Springfield campus.

The U. of I. campaign ranks among the largest campaigns for higher education in the nation.

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Editor's note: Jorge Paulo Lemann is pronounced ZHORE-zhee POW-lo Lay-MOHN

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