NY college gets its largest ever gift from alumnus: $50M

MarketsAssociated Press

A Rochester Institute of Technology alumnus with a billion-dollar company announced Wednesday he is giving his alma mater $50 million. It's the largest donation the private New York college has ever received.

The 2009 graduate, Austin McChord, was back at RIT to discuss the gift. He said it's where the idea for his business came to him.

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"My success today would not have been possible without my time at RIT," said McChord, founder and chief executive of Datto, a data protection company based in Norwalk, Connecticut.

McChord, 32, is an RIT trustee who frequently returns to the 19,000-student campus to speak and mentor students.

"My goal with this gift is two-fold," he told college leaders and students. "First is to help make more resources available to students, alumni and the community at-large to create, build and innovate for the future. But it's also to help recognize those who helped you along the way."

RIT will direct $30 million of McChord's donation toward fostering entrepreneurship. Of that, $17.5 million will be used to launch the Maker Library & Innovative Learning Complex of the Future. The gift also will fund new "Entrepreneurial Gap Year" fellowships to help students advance their concepts into businesses.

The college will use the remaining $20 million to enhance its cybersecurity and artificial intelligence work by expanding facilities and establishing endowments to attract and retain faculty and graduate students.

"His investment in RIT will help our students and faculty make their mark on the world," RIT President David Munson said.

Datto, which McChord started in 2007, opened a branch in RIT's Downtown Center in August 2014, becoming one of the first companies in the region to participate in Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Start-Up NY initiative, which gives tax incentives to companies that partner with college campuses.

In 2015, the company became Connecticut's most valuable start-up, with a valuation of more than $1 billion, according to RIT.

Datto announced in October it would be acquired by Vista Equity Partners and merged with Autotask Corp. McChord is chief executive of the new company, which has about 1,400 employees and offices in nine countries.