The University of Chicago's sign at Blackstone Avenue and the Midway Plaisance.

The University of Chicago has received a $50 million gift from businessman Arley D. Cathey, which will go toward financial aid, undergraduate research and international programming. 

Cathey, who died last year at the age of 93, is an alumnus of the university. In 2012, he made a $17 million donation to the school, which renamed a reading room, residential house and dining hall after his father, Arley D. Cathey, Sr. 

The $50 million donation is the largest estate gift in the U. of C.’s history. Around $20 million will go toward the newly created Arley D. Cathey Odyssey Challenge, part of the Odyssey Scholarship Program, which provides financial support and mentorship to first-generation and lower-income students. 

“The University of Chicago is deeply grateful to Arley for his generous support of undergraduate education,” said new U. of C. President Paul Alivisatos in a press release. “His bequest emphasizes the importance of UChicago’s transformative education and the University’s unwavering commitment to ensuring access for talented students worldwide.”

Cathey came to the U. of C. when he was 16, skipping his senior year of high school. His time at the school was interrupted by World War II — drafted into the Army, he was stationed for 14 months in San Diego. He graduated in 1950 with a bachelor of philosophy degree. 

After finishing in Chicago, he made his fortune with a butane gas company started in his home state of Arkansas; he would later move into retail, real estate and investing. 

Cathey, a frequent presence on campus during the last decade of his life, was particularly well-known for his collection of bow ties, which the U. of C. said will be added to its special collections.

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