The late Dr. William L. Ridgway has left $39 million to the University of Evansville, establishing the largest single gift ever made to UE from an individual or corporation. The lifetime trustee and retired ophthalmologist now is the largest donor in UE’s 159-year history, with a total of $52.6 million given to the University.

UE President Thomas A. Kazee announced the gift today at a 10:30 a.m. news conference on the Ridgway University Center’s East Terrace Lawn.

“Dr. Ridgway was a passionate believer in the importance of higher education and a devoted friend of the University of Evansville,” said Kazee. “During his lifetime, he redefined the UE experience for students by supporting facilities such as the Ridgway University Center and Harlaxton College, and by making a UE education accessible and affordable for talented students. His vision and generosity were limitless, and through this remarkable gift, he will continue to make a profound impact on the University for generations to come.”

The bulk of the gift, approximately $34 million, will be administered through a trust at Old National Bank. The Ridgway Trust is a 501(c)3 organization, and as required by law, will provide an annual distribution of at least 5 percent of the funds to the University of Evansville, similar to the operation of the University’s endowment. UE may submit requests for larger one-time amounts for special projects detailed in the University’s vision statement, including enhancements of academic programs and facilities.

The University will receive an initial gift of $5 million that will be used in part to create the Ridgway Endowment for Faculty Excellence, which will support the efforts of UE’s talented teachers and scholars by providing funds for travel, research, curricular innovation, and more.

“Dr. Ridgway’s gift is a terrific vote of confidence,” Kazee said. “This magnificent act of generosity tangibly reflects Dr. Ridgway’s commitment to UE and to our vision for the future. He knew that his substantial investment could lay the foundation for making an outstanding university an even more powerful force for transforming the lives of its students.”

Dr. Ridgway’s most recent gift also takes UE’s endowment over $100 million. “This is a benchmark number for small, private universities,” said Jack Barner, UE vice president for development. “Dr. Ridgway understood that this gift puts us in a league that clearly demonstrates to the world UE’s quality and reputation.”

Dr. Ridgway died Friday, March 8 at the age of 92. His contributions to the University include:

• The purchase of Harlaxton College in Grantham, England, to serve as the University of Evansville’s British campus. Today, hundreds of students study there each year, and more than half of UE graduates study abroad during their time at the University.

• Establishing the Ridgway University Center, which opened in November 2008. The 92,000-square-foot facility serves as a “campus living room” where students eat, study, and attend events. It also houses WUEV-FM, the University Bookstore, and student life offices.

• Creation of the William L. Ridgway Award in 2009, a financial award that allows Vanderburgh County students to attend UE at a cost comparable to that of Indiana’s leading public institutions.