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Leinweber Foundation gives $8M for physics center in U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts

  • Contact Pam Stout, 734-647-7583, pstout@umich.edu or Laura Lessnau, 734-647-1851, llessnau@umich.edu

Ashley Leinweber, Larry Leinweber, Kip Thorne, Claudia Babiarz, David Leinweber, Jessica Engerer Leinweber. Image courtesy Larry LeinweberAshley Leinweber, Larry Leinweber, Kip Thorne, Claudia Babiarz, David Leinweber, Jessica Engerer Leinweber. Image courtesy Larry Leinweber

ANN ARBOR—An $8 million gift from the Leinweber Foundation will expand opportunities for students and faculty from the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics in the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts to study fundamental questions in particle physics and the evolution of our universe.

In recognition of the gift, the center will be permanently renamed the Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics.

The foundation is led by Michigan-based software entrepreneur Larry Leinweber and Claudia Babiarz of Bloomfield Hills, Mich. The gift will provide resources to attract top physics talent, expand research, and better understand theoretical physics, including elementary particle theory and cosmology. The endowment also establishes the Leinweber Fellows program in LSA's Department of Physics and provides support for conferences, visiting faculty and fellowships for students studying theoretical physics.

"I've always been fascinated by scientific discoveries, including research around the origin and scope of the universe we exist in," Leinweber said. "The complex work being done at the center is made possible at the U-M and other leading research centers because of the talented researchers whose curiosity and commitment lead them to answering complicated, abstract questions. With this gift, the Leinweber family wants to help the university continue to attract talented students and provide faculty with enhanced resources to make groundbreaking discoveries. The university will also share their discoveries with the public through community engagement and outreach."

"The Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics acts as a discovery hub where questions about some of science's most fascinating and complex questions are answered," said Andrew Martin, dean of LSA. "The foundation's gift will enable researchers to better understand the composition of our universe and share exciting new knowledge with the public."

The Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics
The Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics, based in LSA's Department of Physics, promotes excellence in theoretical physics research through workshops, conferences and seminars. Students and faculty at the center explore new findings through research and collaboration to promote discoveries in astrophysics, particle physics, cosmology, string theory and gravitation, among other topics.

"The Leinweber Foundation's gift will allow the physics department to grow in its support of the best young theorists in the country," said Bradford Orr, chair of the Department of Physics and an Arthur F. Thurnau Professor. "This support is crucial for the advancement of science and production of the next generation of researchers. These are very exciting times in physics and the Leinweber Foundation has helped push Michigan to the forefront."

In recent years, the center has brought more than 2,000 national and international experts to the Ann Arbor campus for meetings on diverse topics ranging from the Higgs boson, a fundamental discovery in particle physics, to the study of cosmic microwave background—the afterglow of the Big Bang.

"The Leinweber Foundation's gift enables the center to continue to promote excellence in theoretical physics. Their gift will be essential in attracting the top young talent to Michigan and empowering cutting-edge discoveries in exciting, fundamental directions. It also allows Michigan to remain a nexus for conferences and workshops – a place where leading physicists gather to discuss breakthroughs and generate new ones. We're so grateful for this generous support," said Aaron Pierce, director of the Leinweber Center for Theoretical Physics.

About the Donors
Since 2010, Leinweber and Babiarz have supported students and programs at U-M's College of Literature, Science, and the Arts, the College of Engineering, and the Stephen M. Ross School of Business. Prior to the foundation's recent gift to LSA, they also created the Leinweber Software Scholars Program at the College of Engineering. This program provides scholarships to undergraduate students in computer science by creating a society of software scholars at U-M.

Beyond philanthropic support, Leinweber also advises the Campaign Committee at the College of Engineering, and they both serve as members of the Victors for Michigan National Campaign Leadership Board.

After graduating from Michigan State University and beginning his early computer career at IBM, Leinweber founded and served as CEO of New World Systems Corp. in Troy, Mich., a software company focused on large-scale applications for public sector entities. Babiarz is a 1971 graduate of MSU. She earned her juris doctorate degree summa cum laude in 1984. She eventually served as corporate counsel for 27 and a half years at New World Systems.

Leinweber and Babiarz have two children, David and Ashley Leinweber. David earned his MBA from the Ross School of Business and serves on the advisory board for the computer science program in the College of Engineering. Ashley is currently an MBA student at Ross. Larry also has three older children, Eric, Danica, and Lezlee who contribute to his work.