Special Education

Internet Tycoon Gives $250 Million For Cognitive-Disabilities Project

By Catherine Gewertz — January 24, 2001 2 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

A California couple has promised to donate $250 million to the University of Colorado to create a center for research on technological advances that will help people with cognitive disabilities.

William T. Coleman III and his wife, Claudia Coleman, in Denver to make the announcement last week, said their gift has its roots in a 1983 inspiration: watching their then-6-year-old niece, who has both mental and physical disabilities, learn and grow by using a computer they gave her. Mr. Coleman, who was asked to speak at the university in 1999, became interested in its research in cognitive science. That visit kicked off donation discussions.

Mr. Coleman, the founder and chairman of BEA Systems, which builds Internet business platforms, has said that ever since he founded his San Jose-based company in 1995, he has wanted to use the fruits of his business success to make a difference in an area he cares deeply about.

“I passionately believe that we as a society have the intelligence and the responsibility to develop technologies that will expand the ability of those with cognitive disabilities to learn, to understand, and to communicate,” Mr. Coleman said in a prepared statement.

The Colemans, courtesy of the University of Colorado.

The Colemans’ donation—to be paid over five years—is the largest ever to a public university, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education, which tracks large gifts to colleges and universities.

Elizabeth Hoffman, the president of the University of Colorado system, said the endowment would establish the University of Colorado Coleman Institute for Cognitive Disabilities. In an interview, she said she envisioned it as an international hub of development of “adaptive, assistive technologies.” Ms. Hoffman has pledged to raise additional money for the project in an attempt to match the gift.

‘Perfect Timing’

An estimated 20 million people in the United States have cognitive disabilities, ranging from setbacks caused by a stroke to autism, Down syndrome, mental retardation, and Alzheimer’s disease. The timing for the institute is perfect, Ms. Hoffman said, because increasing numbers of people will struggle with such disabilities as the baby boom generation ages over the next two decades.

“We’re going to need more and more assistive technologies to help people communicate, reason, and remember,” she said. “Just imagine having Alzheimer’s and being afraid to go anywhere because you get lost and don’t recognize people. Then imagine that person being able to carry a small, hand- held device that could help guide them from place to place and even help them recognize friends when they meet them. That could change their lives.”

The institute will begin its work as a partnership with two of the university’s four campuses: its Boulder location and its Health Sciences Center in Denver. Eventually, its work will involve an interdisciplinary group of experts from all four campuses.

Related Tags:

A version of this article appeared in the January 24, 2001 edition of Education Week as Internet Tycoon Gives $250 Million For Cognitive-Disabilities Project

Events

Classroom Technology Webinar Building Better Blended Learning in K-12 Schools
The pandemic and the increasing use of technology in K-12 education it prompted has added renewed energy to the blended learning movement as most students are now learning in school buildings (and will likely continue
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
A Whole Child Approach to Supporting Positive Student Behavior 
To improve student behavior, it’s important to look at the root causes. Social-emotional learning may play a preventative role.

A whole child approach can proactively support positive student behaviors.

Join this webinar to learn how.
Content provided by Panorama
Student Achievement Webinar Examining the Evidence: What We’re Learning From the Field About Implementing High-Dosage Tutoring Programs
Tutoring programs have become a leading strategy to address COVID-19 learning loss. What evidence-based principles can district and school leaders draw on to design, implement, measure, and improve high-quality tutoring programs? And what are districts

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Special Education 6 Ways to Communicate Better With Parents of Students With Learning Differences
For students who learn or think differently, a strong network of support is key. Here are 6 tips for bridging the communication gap between families and schools.
Marina Whiteleather
3 min read
network of quote bubbles
cagkansayin/iStock/Getty
Special Education New York City Will Phase Out Controversial Gifted and Talented Program
The massive change is aimed at addressing racial disparities in the biggest school system in the country.
Michael Elsen-Rooney, New York Daily News
4 min read
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Students write and draw positive affirmations on poster board at P.S. 5 Port Morris, an elementary school in The Bronx borough of New York on Aug. 17, 2021. New York City will phase out its program for gifted and talented students that critics say favors whites and Asian American students, while enrolling disproportionately few Black and Latino children, in the nation's largest and arguably most segregated school system.
Brittainy Newman/AP
Special Education 3 Reasons Why Being a Special Education Teacher Is Even Harder During the Pandemic
Special education teachers were often left to navigate the pandemic on their own, a new survey shows.
6 min read
Paraprofessional Jessica Wein helps Josh Nazzaro answer questions from his teacher while attending class virtually from his home in Wharton, N.J.
Paraprofessional Jessica Wein helps Josh Nazzaro answer questions from his teacher while attending class virtually from his home in Wharton, N.J.
Seth Wenig/AP
Special Education Opinion Inclusive Teachers Must Be 'Asset-Based Believers'
Four veteran educators share tips on supporting students with learning differences as they return to classrooms during this pandemic year.
16 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty