Here's what The News-Gazette's Ethan Simmons wrote about one of the Gies College of Business' most generous donors on April 14, 2023, groundbreaking day for Steven S. Wymer Hall.
Steven Wymer, by his own admission, doesn’t like to draw a lot of attention to himself.
The $25 million gift the longtime Fidelity investment portfolio manager gave to the Gies College of Business to help finance its new academic building was initially shrouded in anonymity.
Yet the $105 million learning center on the south end of the University of Illinois dedicated to both in-person and remote instruction will bear the name Steven S. Wymer Hall.
“The reason for this investment today is I’m following the leadership that Larry and Beth Gies set out when they named the school in 2017,” Wymer said Friday at the facility’s official groundbreaking. Following their example, he wanted to be a bit more public supporting his alma mater.
“They gave relatively early in their careers, a lot earlier than most did — it’s kind of an encouragement to give earlier instead of later in life so you can see the benefits while you can.”
On a breezy Friday just south of the Business Instructional Facility, U of I officials, Gies alums and major donors joined Wymer with hard hats and shovels to anoint the university’s next big teaching facility, set to open in 2025.
With seven large classrooms, including a 200-seat auditorium, several high-tech studios for producing online learning and dozens of new office spaces, the 100,000-square-foot “Wymer Hall” will be built with hybrid instruction and the business college’s growing enrollment in mind.
“We realized a few years ago, we were going to need a bigger boat,” Gies Dean Jeff Brown said. “What is today a parking lot is very soon going to be transformed into a remarkable new educational facility that is planned to expand how we educate and who we educate.”
The private Wymer also let down the curtain just a bit on his personal life. A Danville native, Wymer said he grew up dreaming of attending school at the U of I, his family purchasing Illini football tickets “when no one used to come to games.”
“The university made a strong impression on me,” he said.
Wymer graduated from the Gies College of Business — then the College of Commerce and Business Administration — in 1985, and obtained his MBA from the University of Chicago.
At the Delta Chi social fraternity, he connected with fellow accounting major Larry Gies. Gies, three years his junior, went on to build up Madison Industries, donating $150 million with his wife Beth in 2017 to name the UI’s business college.
“I knew Larry very well, a wonderful young student and young man, and he continues to be a wonderful person,” Wymer said.
Before joining Fidelity Investments, Wymer was a small business consultant at Deloitte Haskins & Sells. He has managed the Fidelity Growth Company Fund since 1997, and lives in the Boston area with his family.
Dean Brown shared more of Wymer’s history of donations to the university, including previous gifts supporting Gies staff and faculty and donations to the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics.
“A lot of his support, at his request, did not make the headlines. Because he didn’t want the attention,” Brown said. “He’s a modest person, whose quiet leadership and humility disinclined him for public recognition. But today I want to thank him very publicly.”
Chancellor Robert Jones said the new hall will “anchor” the UI campus with a second “world-class” interdisciplinary learning facility.
“This represents much more than an addition to the built environment, this is all about providing the assets we need for our students to have an amazing experience at this university,” Jones said.
The building will stand on Gregory Drive between the Business Instructional Facility and Huff Hall. Construction for the four-story building is expected to reach completion by January 2024. The Gies College recently exceeded its $50 million fundraising goal for the facility, Brown said.
“I got a partial academic scholarship when I was at the school, so this is hopefully a good repayment of that,” Wymer said.