Irvine, Calif., Jan. 12, 2021 — A $10.4 million gift to the University of California, Irvine from the Steckler Charitable Fund, formed by Vincent and Amanda Steckler, will support art history students as well as the creation of a center committed to making the field of computing more inclusive.
Vincent Steckler, who earned both a B.S. in information & computer science and a B.S. in mathematics at UCI in 1980, is the former CEO of Avast Antivirus Software, a company that he transformed from a small regional business into a global provider of internet security. He and his wife, Amanda, live in Singapore and California.
About half of the donation – $5 million – will establish the Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technologies within the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. The unit will focus on creating a computing industry that’s inclusive, accessible, safe and equitable for all.
The other half of the gift – nearly $5.4 million – will largely be allocated to endowed funds that support graduate and undergraduate students pursuing coursework in art history by providing experiential learning, research-related travel, mentoring, career-building opportunities and fellowships.
“I believe that the Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technologies 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. “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.”
Mentoring that art history students receive during their college years is crucial for them to be successful in the often challenging years immediately after graduation, he added, noting that internships better prepare students for careers.
The Stecklers made a donation to the art history department last year that significantly expanded paid internship possibilities for students at museums and cultural institutions throughout the country and funded a student field trip across 1,900 miles to see artworks embedded in the environment.
“We are so grateful to Vincent and Amanda Steckler for their support of art history undergraduate and graduate students,” said Tyrus Miller, dean of UCI’s School of Humanities. “By offering them a variety of opportunities for paid internships and career path development, the Stecklers’ generous gift will make an indelible impact on the lives of students for generations to come.”
Of the portion of the donation dedicated to computer science, $2 million will establish a faculty chair, the first holder of which will be the inaugural director of the Center for Responsible, Ethical and Accessible Technologies. The rest of the gift will finance endowments to support CREATe activities and a graduate student fellowship, while also providing programmatic funds for the center’s first four years.
CREATe will leverage UCI’s position as a federally designated minority-serving institution to lead the way in making technology more inclusive. It will bring together experts in computing research and education with those focused on policy, law and ethics to ensure that innovative technologies will be designed with vulnerable populations in mind.
“I am grateful to Vincent and Amanda for their vision and generosity,” said Marios Papaefthymiou, dean of the Donald Bren School of Information & Computer Sciences. “Their transformative gift propels our school to the vanguard of research and educational institutions around the globe that promote fairness and inclusiveness in the information-driven societies of the future.”
Vincent Steckler previously donated $1 million to the ICS school to support women in computing, creating an endowed fellowship for graduate students as well as an endowed scholarship for undergraduates that receives permanent matching funds. He was inducted into UCI’s Information & Computer Sciences Hall of Fame in 2018.
Twenty percent of the $10.4 million gift has been earmarked for graduate fellowships, which will be matched for the first 10 years by the Graduate Division.
“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.
“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,” Amanda Steckler said.
Gillian Hayes, UCI vice provost for graduate education and holder of the Robert A. and Barbara L. Kleist Chair in Informatics, worked closely with the Stecklers to envision their new center – and to facilitate the matching contribution from the Graduate Division.
“Graduate students are the engine that drives the academic enterprise. These students lead many of the most innovative research projects and mentor our excellent undergraduates,” Hayes said. “Support for them is support for the entire campus, and we’re glad to match this incredible gift.”
UCI Chancellor Howard Gillman added: “This extraordinary gift from one of our most successful alumni demonstrates the impact that philanthropy can have on students from all backgrounds. And in today’s difficult economy, when students are feeling financial strain, that kind of support is more important than ever.”
About the University of California, Irvine: Founded in 1965, UCI is the youngest member of the prestigious Association of American Universities. The campus has produced three Nobel laureates and is known for its academic achievement, premier research, innovation and anteater mascot. Led by Chancellor Howard Gillman, UCI has more than 36,000 students and offers 222 degree programs. It’s located in one of the world’s safest and most economically vibrant communities and is Orange County’s second-largest employer, contributing $5 billion annually to the local economy. For more on UCI, visit www.uci.edu.
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