DECATUR - Caterpillar Inc. and the company's CEO Doug Oberhelman, a graduate of the school, are prepared to present the largest gift in Millikin University's history, up to $11.5 million.

"This is a longstanding and really productive partnership between what I think are two great institutions," Oberhelman, a 1975 Millikin graduate, said. He announced the donation at a news conference Monday to several minutes of thunderous applause from university staff members.

A donation from the Caterpillar Foundation accounts for $7 million while Oberhelman and his wife, Diane, pledged $4.5 million.

The funds cover three major projects: $8 million toward the planned new University Center, including the Oberhelman Leadership Development Center on the second floor; $3 million for a Center for International Education; and $500,000 to expand the Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program, which provides financial assistance to minority students.

Not all of the money is guaranteed. A combined $5 million comes in the form of matching grants. For Millikin to receive the full amount, Caterpillar employees and retirees must donate $3.5 million, and other donors must give $1.5 million to the new university center within the next four years.

Millikin Interim President Peg Luy said university officials have "every confidence" that donors will come through.

"Caterpillar has offered us these kinds of opportunities before through the foundation and ... we've always been able to successfully reach the challenge grant opportunities that we've had through matching funds," Luy said.

The money constitutes a sizable chunk of what is needed for the university's Transform MU capital campaign, which aims to raise $85 million for several major campus renovations.

University officials kicked off the campaign in May 2010 with a starting tally of about $25 million. With Caterpillar and Oberhelman's donations, the campaign reached more than $46 million, Luy said.

The new University Center is a major component of the Transform MU campaign. It would cost $27.2 million and replace the current Richards Treat University Center, though it would be nearly double in size at 72,000 square feet.

Luy said the university now has just over half of the money needed to erect that building. The Oberhelman Leadership Development Center on the second floor will hold office space for various student organizations and allow student leaders to gather, she said.

The Center for International Education became a higher priority for the university thanks to the Caterpillar donation. Luy said it would provide classrooms and meeting rooms, and help the university reach its goal of 100 international students on campus each year.

"This is a company with an international scope and so they appreciate a university like Millikin where we value the international experience for our students as well," she said.

Oberhelman said he was most proud of the $500,000 for the Long-Vanderburg Scholars Program, which will be renamed the Long-Vanderburg Caterpillar Scholars Program. The donation will allow the program to double from 60 to 120 students in a four-year period.

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