Illinois couple donates $10 million to KU School of Engineering

Lila and Al Self

An Illinois couple has donated $10 million to Kansas University’s engineering program to support an academic enrichment program for the school.

The gift from Madison “Al” and Lila Self of Hinsdale, Ill., brings their total contributions to the KU Endowment Association to $44 million, making them KU’s largest individual donors.

Their most recent gift will go toward the Madison A. and Lila Self Engineering Leadership Fellows (SELF) program, which provides extra academic opportunities and financial support for select students studying engineering and computer science.

“What we’re looking for in these engineering students are people who are dedicated and motivated,” Al Self said. “That’s the way the program is set up.”

Other areas of KU that the Selfs have supported include the SELF graduate fellowship, the Mossberg Pharmacy Professorship and the Society of Self Fellows.

Students enrolled in the program refine their skills through mentoring and leadership opportunities. Students in the program have met with business leaders including Ford CEO Alan Mulally, Google vice president Brian McClendon and former Royal Dutch Shell executive Linda Zarda Cook.

In a typical year, 16 to 18 students are admitted into the program, and currently 43 students are enrolled. The first class of the program began in fall 2007. With the new donation, the program will be able to accept 80 students, and, beginning in fall 2011, students will be eligible to receive up to $24,000 over four years.

“The SELF program has had an amazing impact on the School of Engineering, the students and the university,” engineering Dean Stuart Bell said in a news release. “The enhanced program will follow this success and we will build one of the foremost leadership programs in the country.”

Al and Lila Self are native Kansans, and were married in 1943, when Al earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from KU. In 1947, the Selfs acquired Bee Chemical Co. in Lansing, Ill., and transformed the company from a three-person operation into an international producer of polymers.

Al later served as chairman and CEO of Tioga International, and now is president of Allen Financial, LLC.