George Roberts ’66 P’93 commits $25 million to data science across liberal arts

The two most popular courses at Claremont McKenna College are, as they have been for as long as many can remember, Economics 50 and Government 20.

The third? Computer Science 5.

The rise of computer science at CMC is not a shift from the College’s historic emphasis on economics and government, but a sign of the growing importance of data science and quantitative analysis in the social sciences, as well as the sciences and humanities.   

Recognizing the new educational landscape, George Roberts ’66 P’93 has donated $25 million to help provide the preparation in data science and computing that today’s students need and desire. The Roberts Foundation—Computer Science Endowment Matching Initiative is meant to inspire gifts totaling $100 million by matching future donations on a one to three basis.

“Throughout my time at Claremont McKenna, I was provided with all of the educational tools needed in order to succeed. As a proud alumnus, I’m honored to give back to the College that gave me so much and to help them continue to provide students with the educational tools they need so they can thrive in today’s world of computing and technology,” Roberts said.

Roberts’ match has already inspired donors to back quantitative integration at CMC. They also see that “the exponential power of computing is transforming our civilization,” President Hiram E. Chodosh said. Computing has changed “how we communicate, socialize, collect information, engage in commerce, work, and travel, educate ourselves, inform business decisions, discover new cures, make policy, and hold ourselves accountable,” he said.

The latest Roberts matching challenge is modeled on a previous Roberts-CMC success story. The Roberts Faculty Leadership Initiative from 2006 generated $60 million for endowed faculty positions and curricular development.

A pioneer of the private equity industry, Roberts co-founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. in 1976. For more than 40 years, he has led KKR & Co. in its growth as a leading global investment firm. Roberts has had an impact on the quality of learning and daily life at the College through previous major gifts, which include the construction of Roberts Pavilion, CMC’s state-of-the-art athletics facility, and various leadership and scholarship programs.

The Roberts CS Match will make possible the programs identified by CMC’s Board of Trustees and faculty to meet growing student demand for the integration of computer and data science coursework into every liberal arts discipline. Projects include continued collaborations with Harvey Mudd College; the creation of new faculty positions in social sciences, the humanities, mathematics, and science for the integration of computation and data science; assistance for faculty with applied capstone experience in the data science sequence; and contributions to the Student Imperative scholarship program (which has now surpassed $200 million in long-term financial commitments) to support scholar-leaders, regardless of family wealth, to thrive in interdisciplinary STEM programs at CMC.

These efforts allow CMC to build greater capacity for computer and data science collaboration and lead by example in the development and acceleration of interdisciplinary strategies for liberal arts colleges nationwide.

“Our students are paying attention to the changing world around them,” Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty Peter Uvin said. “A fundamental understanding of statistics, mathematical thinking, and computing are all basic liberal arts competencies—and it’s where CMC students are in the classroom.”

—Thomas Rozwadowski