William Dunn’s New Gift Matched by Grainger Foundation, Improves Access to CS @ ILLINOIS Education
William Dunn says his 1987 master’s degree from CS @ ILLINOIS provided him with the opportunity to do what he always wanted to do—work with technology and business.
So Dunn says that he didn’t hesitate when the new Grainger Matching Challenge offered him another opportunity: a chance to multiply any new scholarship gifts he made, even to a scholarship fund he had already established. Dunn recently joined a growing list of CS @ ILLINOIS graduates leveraging matching funds from the Grainger Foundation with his major gift to the Dunn Family Scholarship in Memory of Arthur R. Dunn.
Dunn (also BS ’86) is the president and founder of Dunn Solutions Group in the Chicago suburb of Skokie, an IT consulting firm he founded that is focused on business intelligence and custom application development.
He grew up in Chicago, and says he wants to find ways to entice more people who grow up in the state with tech dreams to stay here and help build the growing tech economy.
“I think the most important thing that I’m focusing on right now is making it easier for kids in Illinois to attend the University of Illinois,” Dunn said.
He wants them to be able to follow the same path to opportunity that he did.
Dunn was drawn to Illinois, he said, by the quality of the Computer Science Department, and was never disappointed. One CS professor in particular, Daniel Gajski, helped shape Dunn’s experience.
“To me he was a life-changing professor. You went into his class not knowing anything about computer hardware, and I left feeling like a whole new world had opened up,” Dunn said.
“The quality of the professors at the university was excellent. I learned something in every class,” Dunn added.
After briefly working at Bell Laboratories, Dunn started Dunn Systems in 1988. The company has grown to now serve Fortune 500 companies through offices in the United States and India.
Dunn’s connection to the campus remains deep, and he regularly finds himself reaching back to CS @ ILLINOIS with an eye toward what he and the department can do together.
In 1996, he endowed a scholarship to honor his father, Arthur R. Dunn, and improve access to the door-opening education the younger Dunn had found at CS @ ILLINOIS.
Dunn also looks for opportunities to work with the university to help build the Chicago area and the state as a tech destination.
“It’s about creating an ecosystem. That’s the reason so many of the kids head out to the West Coast, because they’ve got that ecosystem there. We have everything here in the Midwest, especially in Chicago, to have a vibrant ecosystem,” Dunn said.
That includes, he said on a recent day, the talent base being produced by CS @ ILLINOIS.
“In fact, today I am reviewing all the resumes that have been posted at the U of I. I went over 150 resumes and have picked out about 20 I would like to contact,” he said. “I know they have a lot of choices, and we want to see if maybe one or two of them want to come here.”
The Grainger Foundation match is a great way to help improve the access that builds that talent base, Dunn said.
The Grainger Foundation has been a longtime supporter of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Now through the end of 2019, the foundation will match all donations made to the College’s Engineering Visionary Scholarship Initiative, including department endowments like the CS Visionary Scholarship Fund and the Dunn Systems Scholarship.