Delaware First: Investing in IT

Delaware First: Investing in IT

Throughout his 40 years teaching computer and information science at the University of Delaware, Dan Chester has always believed in engaging and edifying his colleagues and students. Whether it was taking the time to mentor graduate and doctoral students or going above and beyond to ensure undergraduates could attend a conference, Chester hoped to make a difference that would inspire others to do the same.

A retired associate professor from the Department of Computing and Information Science (CIS), Chester will now provide sustained and extensive support to faculty and students with a multi-million dollar commitment to the College of Engineering (COE) through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware.

“My philanthropy is and always has been a natural extension of my role as a faculty member,” Chester said. “Since teaching over the years, I have developed a tendency to help others. It is through the University of Delaware that I have been able to have a rewarding career, and by making this commitment, I hope to inspire others to give back and build on a culture of giving back.

Through his philanthropy, Chester will provide transformational support to the COE, beginning with the creation of a student enrichment fund to enhance the academic experience and ensure students have the opportunity to participate in undergraduate research or attend national conferences and programs. Chester also established a mid-career professorship to help the department retain top talent, a CIS graduate scholarship to help offset tuition and stipends, and a discretionary fund to provide to the head of the department the ability to meet the greatest needs of the department. These investments will provide immediate resources and create endowments that will ensure continuity of support in perpetuity.

“The University of Delaware is fortunate to have generous philanthropists, such as Dan Chester, who support our students and faculty by ensuring that we continue to provide unique opportunities for learning, discovery, and achievement” , said UD President Dennis Assanis. “The University community is extremely grateful for Dan’s transformational gifts, which demonstrate a deep commitment to the continued success of our Blue Hens. Students and faculty at the College of Engineering, and throughout UD, will benefit from this transformational gift for many years to come.

Beyond the classroom

Chester also created a scholarship for the University’s new Esports program. Collegiate Esports is booming, and with the University’s recent specialization in game studies and esports, the College of Arts and Sciences is already welcoming students interested in pursuing careers as programmers and designers. His donation will help the University recruit top talent for the program.

Such a commitment to helping Blue Hens and others has long been part of Chester’s philanthropy. In fact, one of his first gifts to college came when he learned he had a specific, special need.

Each year, the department encourages undergraduate students to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, which is designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the fore. Remembering how much he had benefited from attending conferences himself, Chester stepped in to help out for a year when limited funding threatened to keep students from attending.

“When students come back from the conference, they’ll tell you how important it is to find that peer network. It can solidify their commitment to the discipline, help them forge their career paths, and help the department recruit and retain talented students,” Chester said. “I sincerely hope that the talented people in the Department of Computing and Information Science will continue to have access to the opportunities and experiences that will help them pursue meaningful research and careers.”

UD participants who attended the conference shared the positive impact it had on them to hear and interact with women in their chosen field.

“The Grace Hopper Celebration is a great opportunity and eye-opener to help uncover how women in high-tech fields can succeed,” said Sha Liu, a PhD student at the College of Engineering. “The conference is necessary because it is important that women have equal access to study and career opportunities in science and technology. It is not only about whether we will miss the next Madame Curie, but also whether society is fair and whether everyone has the right to develop equally. Attending this conference showed me that gender issues in STEM are real and universal globally, and that we need solidarity and conviction. I am grateful for the support to attend, as it encourages a woman like me to make a difference and succeed in the IT field.

In addition to his financial support, Chester was dedicated to the success of his students inside and outside the classroom. He joined the University as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Computing and Information Science in 1980, then located in the College of Arts and Sciences. Over the years, Chester has mentored doctoral and master’s students, as well as numerous undergraduate students. He has also taught nearly 40 different courses at UD throughout his career while pursuing his own research and serving on various academic committees.

And now, through his latest philanthropy, Chester is building on his career to encourage emerging computer scientists and researchers to leave extraordinary legacies that will enrich the lives of future Blue Hen students and faculty for years to come.

“Dan’s gift will have a huge impact on the department and the college at a critical time, especially as the demand for talented graduates in computing and research that shapes the industry increases,” said Levi Thompson, Dean of College of Engineering. “It is truly inspiring to have a member of our COE community give back so generously. The success of our faculty and alumni continues to set UD Engineering apart, and Dan’s generosity demonstrates exactly what it means to commit to the success of our computer science students and programs.

About the campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on November 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign unites Blue Hens across the country to accelerate UD’s mission to nurture tomorrow’s leaders, create solutions to great challenges, develop inspire innovations and transform lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and expand its impact on the region and the world.

Building on the unprecedented support and generosity demonstrated by the campaign, on October 7, 2021, the University announced the extension of Delaware first with a $1 billion goal to further fuel change and innovation for students, faculty, campus, and the world.

For more information, call 302-831-2104 or email [email protected]