$24.1 million gift to support international students, executive education

A gift from Nassef Sawiris will support the education of Egyptian students.

A $24.1 million gift from Nassef Sawiris, a University of Chicago trustee and College alumnus, will support the education of Egyptian students through an expanded scholars program at the University and a new executive education program serving government officials and business leaders in Egypt.

Of the overall gift from the Nassef Sawiris, $18.1 million will support the Sawiris Scholars Program, which enables academically talented students from schools and universities in Egypt to attend UChicago’s undergraduate school and the College’s Odyssey Scholarship program, UChicago’s flagship financial aid initiative, which supports a need-blind, loan-free education at the College. The remaining $6 million of the gift will support a new non-degree certificate executive education program in El Gourna, Egypt at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business.

The Sawiris Scholars Program was established in 2007 with a gift of $26 million from Nassef Sawiris and named in honor of his father.

“We are grateful to Nassef Sawiris for his generosity and leadership in supporting undergraduate students from Egypt at UChicago and Booth executive education in Egypt,” said University President Robert J. Zimmer. “In addition to its impact on our work with Egypt, it greatly contributes to our overall efforts to expand the global reach of a University of Chicago education.”

Sawiris, who has an extensive history of giving to the University, is the CEO of OCI N.V., an international engineering and construction contractor and chemical producer. He earned his bachelor’s degree in economics from the College in 1982 and has served on the University’s Board of Trustees since 2013.

“Students in the Sawiris Scholars Program share a potential for exceptional achievement. I am proud to share the culture of intellectual rigor and global impact that I found at University of Chicago with them and look forward to seeing all that they will accomplish,” Nassef Sawiris said. “I am excited to support the launch of a new Chicago Booth program in Egypt, bringing the University’s strength in executive education to emerging leaders in the public and private sectors in Egypt and the wider region.”

In addition to supporting students pursuing a four-year undergraduate degree in the College, the Sawiris Scholars Program brings cohorts of students from Egypt to the College for one year of intensive study and cultural experience. The scholars then return to complete their educations in Egypt and engage with their communities and industries as active leaders.

By growing the Sawiris Scholars Program, the gift will expand the University’s support of students from outside the United States, who would not otherwise have access to some traditional forms of American financial aid. Comprehensive funding—including travel and living expenses— ensures that students selected for such programs will be able to participate fully in their education regardless of their financial circumstances.

In recent years, the University’s undergraduate College has strategically enhanced international financial aid and begun to move the international student body to a level of economic diversity more closely matching the domestic student body.

“Academic inquiry, a foundational component of UChicago’s transformative education, is most effective when it includes a wide range of perspectives,” said John W. Boyer, dean of the College. “We are grateful for this gift to enrich our undergraduate community with Egyptian students while increasing the accessibility of a UChicago education to all students of intellectual promise, regardless of geographic location.”

The Chicago Booth Executive Program in El Gouna will bring together both the private and public sectors with Chicago Booth faculty to meet the challenges and changes in today’s evolving business landscape. The program will provide a blend of traditional management education and experiential learning and expand the professional network and influence of participants. In future years, the program will look into including participants from the greater Middle East and North Africa region.

“As a truly global business school, we are delighted to partner with Mr. Sawiris to bring our distinctive Chicago Approach to management education to executives and government officials in Egypt,” said Chicago Booth Dean Madhav Rajan. “This unique program will further the school’s mission to influence and educate current and future leaders.”

Earlier philanthropy of Sawiris to the University also includes support of the Oriental Institute, undergraduates from Cairo University in Chicago and from UChicago in Egypt, and a visiting faculty fellowship program between Egypt and the UChicago Center in Paris.