Retired faculty member Dan Chester pays it forward to future Blue Hens in computer and information sciences

Throughout his 40 years of teaching computer and information sciences at the University of Delaware, Dan Chester has always believed in investing in and uplifting colleagues and students. Whether taking the time to mentor graduate and doctoral students or going above and beyond to ensure undergraduate students were able to attend a conference, Chester hoped to make a difference that would inspire others to do the same.

A retired associate professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences (CIS), Chester will now provide long-lasting and extensive support for faculty and students with a broad ranging multi-million-dollar commitment for the College of Engineering (COE) through Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware.

“My philanthropy is and has always been a natural extension of my role as a faculty member,” Chester said. “From my time teaching over the years, I have developed an inclination to assist others. It is thanks to the University of Delaware that I have been able to have a rewarding career and, in making this commitment, I hope to inspire others to give back and build upon a culture of paying it forward.”

Through his philanthropy, Chester will provide transformational support for COE, beginning with him establishing a student enrichment fund to enhance the academic experience and ensure students have opportunities to participate in undergraduate research or attend national conferences and programs.  Chester also established a mid-career professorship to help the department retain top talent, a graduate fellowship in CIS to help offset the cost of tuition and stipends, as well as a discretionary fund to provide the department chair with the ability to respond to the greatest departmental needs. These investments will provide immediate resources as well as create endowments that will ensure the support continues in perpetuity.

“The University of Delaware is fortunate to have generous philanthropists, such as Dan Chester, who support our students and faculty by ensuring that we continue to provide unique opportunities for learning, discovery and success,” said UD President Dennis Assanis. “The University community is extremely grateful for Dan’s transformational gifts, which demonstrate a deep commitment to the continued success of our Blue Hens. Students and faculty in the College of Engineering, as well as throughout UD, will benefit from this transformational gift for many years to come.”

Beyond the classroom

Chester also established a scholarship for the University’s emerging Esports program. Collegiate Esports is burgeoning, and with the University’s recent major in game studies and Esports, the College of Arts and Sciences is already welcoming students interested in pursuing careers as programmers and designers. His gift will help the University recruit top talent to the program.

Such a broad commitment to helping Blue Hens and others has long been part of Chester’s philanthropy. In fact, one of his earliest gifts to the University came about when he learned of a specific, special need.

Annually, the department encourages undergraduates to attend the Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing conference, which is designed to bring the research and career interests of women in computing to the forefront. Recalling how much he benefitted from attending conferences himself, Chester stepped in to assist one year when limited funding threatened to keep students from attending.

“When students return from the conference, they will tell you how impactful it is to find that network of peers. It can solidify their commitment to the discipline, helping them forge their career path and helping the department recruit and retain talented students,” Chester said. “It is my sincere hope that the talented people in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences will always have access to the opportunities and experiences that will help them conduct meaningful research and careers.”

The UD participants who attended the conference shared the positive impact it had on them to hear from and interact with women in their chosen field.

“The Grace Hopper Celebration is a great opportunity and an eye opener to help learn about how women in high-tech fields can be successful,” said Sha Liu, doctoral student in the College of Engineering. “The conference is needed because it is important that women to have equal access to study and career opportunities in science and technology. It is not only about whether we will miss the next Madame Curie, but also about whether society is just, and everyone gets the right to develop fairly. Attending this conference showed me that gender issues in STEM are real and universal globally, and that we need solidarity and conviction. I’m grateful for the support to attend because it encourages woman like me to make a difference and be successful in the field of computing.”

In addition to his financial support, Chester was dedicated to the success of his students both in and out of the classroom. He joined the University as an assistant professor in the Department of Computer and Information Sciences in 1980 — then located in the College of Arts and Sciences. Over the years, Chester mentored doctoral and master’s students, as well as numerous undergraduates. He also taught nearly 40 different courses at UD throughout his career while pursuing his own research and serving on various academic committees.

And now, through his latest philanthropy, Chester builds upon his career of encouraging emerging computer scientists and researchers to leave behind an extraordinary legacy that will enrich the lives of future Blue Hen students and faculty for years to come.

“Dan’s gift will have a tremendous impact on the department and college at a critical time, especially as the demand for talented computer science graduates and industry-shaping research grows,” said Levi Thompson, dean of the College of Engineering. “It is truly inspiring to have a member of our COE community give back so generously. The success of our faculty and alumni continues to set UD Engineering apart, and Dan’s generosity demonstrates exactly what it means to be committed to the success of our computer science students and programs.”

About the Campaign

Delaware First: The Campaign for the University of Delaware was publicly launched on Nov. 10, 2017. The comprehensive engagement and fundraising campaign unites Blue Hens across the nation to accelerate UD’s mission of cultivating tomorrow’s leaders, creating solutions to grand challenges, inspiring innovations and transforming lives. The united effort will help create an extraordinary student experience at UD and extend its impact on the region and the world.

Building on the record-breaking support and generosity evidenced by the Campaign, on Oct. 7, 2021, the University announced the extension of Delaware First with a $1 billion goal to further fuel change and innovation for students, faculty, campus and the world.

For more information, call 302-831-2104 or email campaign-info@udel.edu.

 Illustration by Heidi McDonough |