The University of California—Irvine (UCI) says a $10.4 million donation from one of its “most successful alumni” will help it create a more inclusive computing field.
The gift from the Steckler Charitable Fund—formed by Vincent and Amanda Steckler—will also benefit art history students. About $5.4 million will be used to support students studying art history by funding research-related travel, mentoring, experiential learning, and more.
The other $5 million will establish the Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technologies within the Donald Bren School of Information and Computer Sciences (ICS). The unit will focus on creating a computing industry that’s inclusive, accessible, and safe.
Vincent Steckler, who graduated UCI in 1980 with degrees in mathematics and computer science, is former chief executive of Avast Antivirus Software, which he built from a small regional business into a global provider of internet security.
He said in a statement that his gift to the university will be well spent.
“I believe that [the center] could dramatically change some of the toxic tendencies within Silicon Valley. And if we change the way Silicon Valley operates, we can change the world,” Steckler said in a Jan. 12 press release.
“At the same time, art is a crucial part of the human experience. The art history courses I took at UCI made such an impression on me. What I learned ignited a lifelong passion for and appreciation of art that I’ve been able to share with my wife, Amanda, and our five children.”
The Stecklers also made a donation to the art history department last year, which significantly expanded internship possibilities for students.
As well, Vincent Steckler previously donated $1 million to the ICS school to support women in computing.
“I wouldn’t be where I am today if it weren’t for UCI, and I’m excited to leverage the funding match for the graduate fellowships because it offers such a high return on investment,” Steckler said.
Amanda Steckler added: “I believe it’s our responsibility to give back to the society and institutions that have helped us over the years. I am proud to recognize the importance of art and computer education to society.”
UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman said the donation was appreciated.
“This extraordinary gift from one of our most successful alumni demonstrates the impact that philanthropy can have on students from all backgrounds,” he said in the release. “And in today’s difficult economy, when students are feeling financial strain, that kind of support is more important than ever.”