Whopping donation: $120 million funds UVA’s new School of Data Science

Jaffray Woodriff’s $120 donation to UVA will go towards a new School of Data Science that will build upon the existing Data Science Institute.
Jonathan Haynes Jaffray Woodriff’s $120 donation to UVA will go towards a new School of Data Science that will build upon the existing Data Science Institute. Jonathan Haynes

By Jonathan Haynes

Jaffray Woodriff, who made a fortune using data science in the investment world, has bestowed upon his alma mater its largest donation ever to create a School of Data Science. It will build on the university’s existing Institute of Data Science, which was created with a $10 million donation from Woodriff in 2014.

UVA President Jim Ryan held a press conference in the dome of the Rotunda Friday to announce the new school and the $120 million seed money.

Woodriff, who plans to remake the west end of the Downtown Mall with an office building called CODE—Center of Developing Entrepreneurs—is a 1991 graduate of the McIntire School of Commerce and founder and CEO of the Charlottesville-based Quantitative Investment Management, a $3 billion hedge fund. “Responsibly applying data science is one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime,” he said in the Dome Room.

Phil Bourne, director and interim dean of the of UVA’s Data Science Institute, said the school must both “drive and respond appropriately” to the technological revolution. “It’s weaving social responsibility into all we do.”

Woodriff and his wife, Merrill Woodriff, also a UVA alum, donated the money through their 501(c)(3), the Quantitative Foundation.

A variety of sources will match the donation, bringing the program’s total to $200 million. The project has not received government funding.

UVA’s current Data Science Institute is a “pan-university” that offers master’s degree and research programs. Woodriff’s donation will enable the school to add doctoral and undergraduate degrees, as well as certificate programs.

A star-studded lineup spoke at the event, including U.S. Representative Denver Riggleman and Governor Ralph Northam, who was met with a standing ovation when he took the podium. Senator Mark Warner, still in Washington because of the government shutdown, sent a video message.

According to Bloomberg News, Woodriff was also the major donor establishing the university’s $12.4 million squash center, which opened in 2013.



Correction January 28: An editor incorrectly described CODE as a tech incubator in the original version. It is an office building.

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