More than 1,000 people packed Pick-Staiger Concert Hall on January 28 to celebrate alumna Roberta Buffett Elliott and her gift to Northwestern exceeding $100 million — marking a transformative moment for global studies at the University.

The mood was warm and light, and Northwestern President Morton Schapiro was in his element moderating a lively panel discussion on global issues by University experts from Northwestern’s three campuses, including the University’s first international campus in Qatar.

The enthusiastic crowd responded repeatedly with sustained applause for the program and two standing ovations for Mrs. Elliott and her historic gift.

President Schapiro began his remarks by letting the audience know that he was going to read words from a script that were sure to cause a sensation.

“I am elated to report that Northwestern University has received the largest single gift in the University’s history,” he read, pointing his finger in the air. “This gift of more than $100 million from alumna Roberta Buffett Elliott brings her total giving to the campaign to almost $110 million, which will be used to create the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies.”

The crowd cheered loudly, only too happy to give President Schapiro the enthusiastic response he predicted.

The Buffett Institute for Global Studies will follow a multidisciplinary and problem-solving approach to advancing important global issues and “take the scope and impact of our global programs to a whole new level,” President Schapiro added.

Mrs. Elliott, a 1954 graduate of the Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences who for many years has been a major supporter of international studies at the University, observed most of the celebration from her front-row seat in the audience, next to her brother, Warren Buffett, the legendary financial investor and chairman and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway.

After she was prompted by the president to stand up and be recognized, the spillover crowd clearly registered its love for Mrs. Elliott, giving her the longest sustained applause of the day.

At the end of the panel program, President Schapiro recognized that Mrs. Elliott’s “big brother,” obviously a crowd favorite, would escort her to the stage so that she could receive her gift. After Mr. Buffett did, President Schapiro hugged Mrs. Elliott and presented her with a large antique map of the world, eliciting a standing ovation.

President Schapiro read the inscription on the gift’s plaque: “For Roberta Buffett Elliott, in grateful recognition of her historic and visionary gift creating the Roberta Buffett Institute for Global Studies. This Institute will ensure that Northwestern University will forever be at the frontier of global understanding. January 28, 2015.”

“One of the four pillars of the [strategic] plan was globalization, and thanks to Bertie’s visionary philanthropy, we now will have the resources in place to transform nearly every corner of the University’s global programming,” President Schapiro said at the beginning of the celebration. “And because she took the unusual step of funding the entire gift immediately, implementation begins today.”

The University can begin recruiting the Institute’s founding director and implementing its programs.

Mrs. Elliott previously made a series of gifts to endow what is now named the Roberta Buffett Center for International and Comparative Studies at Northwestern.

Mrs. Elliott’s total giving to the University’s $3.75 billion fundraising campaign is approximately $110 million. With the gift announced today, the total amount raised for We Will. The Campaign for Northwestern has surpassed $2 billion, marking a new Northwestern milestone for campaign fundraising.


For more coverage of Mrs. Elliott's gift to the University, visit the Northwestern News Center.


For more stories from this month's Alumni News, visit the NAA on Our Northwestern, the University's online community.