Case School of Engineering receives $2 million commitment

Business strategist and investor Charles H. Phipps of Dallas has made a $2 million commitment to the Case School of Engineering at Case Western Reserve University. The Phipps Endowment Fund will support the Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science.

“Charles Phipps continues the Case School of Engineering’s tradition of educating graduates as cutting-edge innovators,” said Norman C. Tien, dean and Nord Professor of Engineering. “I am grateful for his generous support, which honors the professional and personal contributions of Charles and his late wife, Mary Claire.”

The Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science has graduated several notable alumni, including Paul Buchheit (lead developer, Gmail), Craig Newmark (founder, craigslist) and Chi-Foon Chan (president, Synopsys).

This is Phipps’ second major gift to the school. In 2005, he and his brother, John B. (Jack) Phipps—who attended Case Institute of Technology with his brother after World War II—created the Myron Phipps Dean’s Discretionary Fund in memory of their father. The fund provided essential funding to help research, plan and launch the university’s Great Lakes Energy Institute, founded in 2008.

“Our gift was based on a venture-capital model of giving,” said Phipps of the early success of the endowment. “We supplied the seed money to make things happen. As a donor in that model, you’ve got to have faith in the institution. You can’t micromanage it.”

Phipps began his career in the test engineering program at General Electric. After earning his MBA at the Harvard Business School, he worked for Motorola in the Chicago area. Phipps then moved to Dallas to work as an engineer for Texas Instruments just as the company was developing integrated circuits and semi-conductors for new markets.

During his long tenure at Texas Instruments, he became keenly interested in strategy and how it related to product development, eventually becoming the director of strategy for the corporation at a time when strategy was just emerging as its own business discipline. In the mid-1980s, Phipps left Texas Instruments to become a consultant, and in 1987, he became a partner at Sevin Rosen Funds.

The fund also honors his late wife, Mary Claire Aschenbrener Phipps. A native of Racine, Wis., Mary Claire was a 1951 graduate of the University of Wisconsin who worked for Northern Trust in Chicago at a time when few women held positions in finance. Throughout her life, she was committed to improving the lives of those with Down’s syndrome.