The money will be used to give full scholarships to about 800 lower-income students each academic year. The grants, called Odyssey Scholarships, will also pay partial tuition for another 400 of the 4,400 undergraduate students at the institution and fund a summer enrichment program for about 50 lower-income students before their first year of college.
"A quarter of our students will have a very different experience than they had before," said Michael Behnke, vice president and dean of college enrollment. "They will be free from this worry about debt. It will transform student life on campus."
For students to qualify for the full scholarships, which will be funded for 15 years starting in fall 2008, the family income of the student must not exceed $60,000 (EUR44,709). To qualify for the partial scholarships, the family's income must not be more than $75,000 (EUR55,887).
University officials offered few details about the donor, who graduated from the school in the early 1980s. Officials said as a student, he came from a "modest background" but did not require financial assistance.
"Our donor is somebody who himself felt that his life had been transformed by the nature of the education that he had," University President Robert Zimmer said. "He wanted to make the gift to ensure that students had the opportunity independent of their financial capacity."
Before the $100 million (EUR74.52 million) gift to the University of Chicago, the largest single donation to a university in Illinois was $75 million given to Northwestern University in 2002 from the Joseph and Bessie Feinberg Foundation.