June 9-22, 2000
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Edward A. Snyder, Bert Ellis Jr. and Melvyn Leffler
Peggy Harrison
U. Bertram Ellis Jr. (center), a 1975 and '79 U.Va. alumnus and Internet businessman, stands with the deans whose schools will benefit from a $10 million gift he and his wife gave to U.Va., Edward A. Snyder (left) of Darden and Melvyn P. Leffler, of Arts & Sciences. Ellis currently sits on the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees.

$10 million gift caps U.Va. reunions weekend

By Carol Wood

Internet businessman and University alumnus U. Bertram Ellis Jr., chair and chief executive officer of Atlanta-based iXL Enterprises, and his wife Deborah Hicks Ellis have given $10 million to the University.

The gift, one of the 10 largest in the University's history, is to be divided between Ellis' two U.Va. schools, the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, from which he graduated in 1975, and the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration, from which he earned an MBA degree in 1979.

In announcing the unrestricted gift during the June 3-4 reunions weekend, University President John T. Casteen III called the gift "another signal of the Ellises' commitment to and affection for the University."

The Ellises have been involved in University life and interested in helping to shape its future since he graduated from the College. Last year, Ellis was the chief architect of "e-summit@virginia," helping to bring together almost 100 U.Va. alumni leaders in the Internet world for a conference on the impact of new technology.

"Bert and Debbie consistently have given their time, their incredible energy and their financial support to University programs during the past 25 years," Casteen said. "Their gift today sets the standard for leadership among their generation. We are deeply grateful for their generosity of spirit."

"Debbie and I have been extremely lucky in our lives. We are committed to distributing 90 percent of our financial wealth during our lifetimes to institutions and organizations that have a positive impact on us, our family, and our communities," Ellis said. "This gift to U.Va. can help propel the University to even greater heights. I am honored to have this opportunity to give back."

Peggy Harrison
After President John T. Casteen III announced the $10 million gift from the Ellises during reunions weekend, Bert Ellis stood up and waved to the alumni crowd's claps and cheers. The unrestricted gift will go to Arts & Sciences and the Darden School.

Ellis, who currently serves on the Darden School Foundation Board of Trustees, founded iXL Enterprises, a global company that helps businesses embrace and take advantage of new technology, in 1996. iXL is the parent company of iXL Inc. and the Consumer Financial Network. Earlier, he headed Ellis Communications, a company that owned and operated 13 television stations, two radio stations, and the Raycom sports production/marketing firm.

Both the dean of Arts & Sciences, Melvyn P. Leffler, and the dean of the Darden School, Edward A. Snyder, said the gift reflected the couple's interest in academic programs as well as in the aspirations of all sectors of the University.

"This gift comes at a pivotal moment in our academic planning," Leffler said. "Because of their generosity, we will be able to shape the future of the college with the same emphases that have characterized Bert's career: remarkable innovation combined with the creative use of technology. We are striving for national and international distinction, so the support of private donors -- like Bert and Debbie Ellis -- makes us believe that these aspirations are possible."

Said Snyder: "Bert Ellis personifies the Darden mission of developing professionals who create, lead and inspire great organizations. Future Darden students will be even better equipped to lead the global economy as the result of this extraordinary gift from a very dynamic and insightful couple.

Ellis, who also has been involved with a recent series of alumni meetings to help envision the future of the University, said he chose his 25th reunion to announce his gift to send a message to fellow alumni about the need to support their alma mater as it sets a course toward growth and change.

Another gift

In addition to the Ellis gift, Casteen announced a commitment of $2 million from one of his own classmates. Casteen, a 1965 graduate of Arts & Sciences, said that the anonymous donor had been inspired by the activities of reunions weekend and requested that his gift be announced then. It will create a professorship in English and an unrestricted fund for the dean of Arts & Sciences.

Reunions successful

The annual alumni gathering at the University has enjoyed a short but robust history. In the past nine years, the event has grown from a scant 600 attendees to some 5,000 this year. It now includes two days of University seminars, athletic events, historic tours and receptions.

Alumni giving has increased along with attendance, with classes competing for the coveted award of most generous class. Last year's giving totals for the weekend reached $4.3 million. This year's numbers -- from the classes of '55, '60, '65, '70, '75, '80, '85, '90 and '95 -- are expected to hit $5.7 million, not including the two leadership gifts announced by Casteen.

The weekend's commitments will be counted in the Campaign for the University, which to date has raised $1.13 billion, well beyond its $1 billion goal.



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