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Polsky Center to Get 'Supercharged' as Result of Big Gift

By Allan Friedman, Executive Director of Communications  |  january, 2013, Issue 1

Chicago energy entrepreneur and Booth graduate Michael Polsky, who in 2002 donated $7 million to Booth to create the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship, has increased his total gift to $15 million, the School announced in December.

The additional $8 million will make more resources available to Booth students and will enable the Polsky Center to serve as a venture creation engine for the entire University. "Michael's generous gift will supercharge our smoothly running and successful entrepreneurship program," said Professor Steven Kaplan, Neubauer Family Distinguished Service Professor of Entrepreneurship and Finance and Faculty Director of the Polsky Center.

"With this gift, we can bring more entrepreneurship resources to Booth students, and, in particular, we can bring more Booth students together with promising technologies and ideas at other units of the University," Professor Kaplan said.

The Center will now be called the Michael P. Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The gift will create new multidisciplinary programs, provide resources and space for cross-campus interdisciplinary teams to collaborate on new venture development and support the University's growing innovation initiatives.

"This gift will enable the Polsky Center to expand its mission of encouraging entrepreneurship, which drives our economy and is the core of the American spirit," said Michael Polsky, a 1987 graduate of Booth. Polsky is the founder and chief executive of Chicago-based Invenergy, a leading global clean energy company that is North America's largest independent privately owned wind power generation company. Polsky has often credited his Booth education for his success, saying the School "has given me a complete package as an entrepreneur."

"Entrepreneurs lead the way in innovation and job creation, which in turn benefits our entire society," Polsky said. "I am proud that we are investing further in our efforts to foster and celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit among the entire University of Chicago community."

"This gift will allow us to have a more direct impact on the commercialization of the University's intellectual property," said Dean Sunil Kumar. "It will provide more opportunities for our business school students to interact with others across the University, and more opportunities for them to create new ventures."

Entrepreneurship has grown so much in popularity among Booth students that a majority of students who enrolled in the School this year listed it as their top intended concentration, Dean Kumar said.

Demand for additional support and programming from the Polsky Center has increased significantly in recent years. During the 2011-12 academic year, Booth's Edward L. Kaplan New Venture Challenge received a record 160 applications from student teams who compete for $335,000 in prize money and business services. The program, now in its 17th year, helped launch more than 85 companies that have raised nearly $300 million in funding and created more than 1,300 jobs. These companies include GrubHub, Braintree and Bump, which have been funded by some of the world's top venture capital firms, including Accel, Benchmark, NEA and Sequoia.

The expanded mission of the Polsky Center comes after more than 10 years of development and success. With Polsky's endowment in 2002, the Center created substantial programs and activities in six key areas: new venture creation, experiential learning and entrepreneurial education, faculty research, community outreach, innovation workshops and early stage investment.

"The Polsky Center has had great success developing entrepreneurial Booth students and helping them launch and grow their businesses. We look forward to continuing with Booth students and expanding to work with students and faculty across the University," Professor Kaplan said.

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