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Dunham Fund gives $2.3M for Aurora STEM school

Auroraremiddle‐school students participating Amazing Science 2011 summer program as part 
University’s Institute for CollaboratiSTEM partnership programming.

Aurora area middle‐school students participating in the Amazing Science 2011 summer program as part of the University’s Institute for Collaboration STEM partnership programming.

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Updated: July 23, 2012 7:17AM



AURORA — The Dunham Fund announced its largest grant yet — a $2.35 million capital grant — to help build the STEM Partnership School on Aurora University’s campus.

Thursday’s Dunham Fund gift brings the fund’s total donations to the project to $2.85 million. Aurora University has also previously received a $3.5 million gift from the John C. Dunham estate which AU has designated toward the STEM school, Dunham Fund Executive Director Bob Vaughan confirmed Thursday.

The new school will be named in honor of the late John C. Dunham, owner of the Aurora-based Equipto Co. and founder of the Dunham Fund, pending approval by AU’s Board of Trustees. The businessman and community benefactor died in 2006 at the age of 95.

The STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) school will provide a mathematics and science educational program for 3rd through 8th grade students from the East Aurora, West Aurora, Indian Prairie and Oswego school districts. It will initially serve 200 students and employ district teachers who will simultaneously complete AU graduate coursework in STEM education.

“We will serve the needs of students and teachers in the surrounding area as we develop exciting new strategies for empowering learners of all ages in these crucial disciplines,” said Rebecca Sherrick, Aurora University president.

The driving force of the STEM school was a $100,000 Challenge for Change grant awarded to AU by the Dunham Fund in 2009 for the development of an innovative and collaborative program concept that had potential to become a reality.

Following authorization of the school by the state legislature, the Dunham Fund issued an additional $250,000 grant and $150,000 challenge grant that was more than matched by the Exelon Foundation’s $500,000 support of the program concept.

Stewart Beach, Dunham Fund chairman, said Thursday the school has been a true collaboration between school districts, politicians and donors to “homegrow” a STEM workforce.

“It’s important to our community... and this can be done across the country,” Beach said.

Tellabs Foundation also announced a $200,000 grant toward the STEM school Thursday. The foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Naperville-based network equipment provider.

Meredith Hilt, Tellabs Foundation executive director, said the U.S. is only graduating enough engineers to fill about half of the engineering jobs that are estimated to be available in the next 10 years.

“Engineers are the lifeblood of our company, and something that we really need to make sure are in the pipeline so we have a prepared workforce,” Hilt said.

The STEM school project is estimated to cost $12 million. Sherry Eagle, executive director of AU’s Institute for Collaboration, declined to say exactly how much has been raised so far, but said the university is “well over half way there.”

Eagle said she’s confident the school will open in fall 2014 as planned.



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