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Oculus co-founder donates $31 million to University of Maryland

Brendan Iribe gives back to his old school, will have new computer science building named after him

Brendan Iribe dropped out of the University of Maryland, but he clearly still has fond feelings for the school. The Oculus co-founder and CEO today announced a $31 million gift to the school to help build the Brendan Iribe Center for Computer Science and Innovation and establish the Brendan Iribe Endowed Scholarship in Computer Science. Speaking with GamesIndustry.biz today, Iribe explained why he decided to make the donation to an institution he never graduated from.

"It was just a very special place," Iribe said. "Like Steve Jobs said, the journey is the reward. But it's these memories and relationships that really in my opinion last forever and are the most important part of this journey. And a huge amount of my life has been very positively affected by the University of Maryland and the relationships and memories I had there."

The University of Maryland was where Iribe met fellow Oculus co-founders Michael Antonov and Andrew Reise, who died last year in a hit-and-run accident. In fact, he was visiting the campus at the invite of an Andrew Reisse Memorial Scholarship recipient when the idea for the new building first began. Iribe was touring the campus when he saw the existing computer science building.

"This building is going to be in the name of somebody who's still out there, working as hard as they can to change the world."

"It wasn't quite as inspiring as I remember it being," Iribe said.

A faculty member told him they were thinking about a new computer science building, sooner or later, to which Iribe suggested maybe he and Michael could help with it. The golf cart they were touring the campus in came to a screeching halt, and they began to discuss the subject a bit more seriously.

"The more we talked about it, the more it really made sense that this was an opportunity for myself and Michael to really give back to the university," Iribe said.

Iribe's gift consists of $30 million to go toward the new building with $1 million set aside for the scholarship. Antonov (who also dropped out of the university but returned to earn his degree in 2003), is putting $3.5 million toward the building, and $500,000 for scholarships. Iribe's mother, Elizabeth Trexler, is also donating $3 million to create two endowed chairs in the Department of Computer Science.

Iribe said he's a big believer in education, and first got into computers in high school largely because a teacher had encouraged his interest in the field. Moreover, he's a big believer in public education, which was another important aspect playing into his gift.

"This is the largest donation that the University of Maryland has ever received as a state school," Iribe said. "State schools don't usually receive large donations. It's common at Stanford, private schools, or Ivy League schools, but it's not that common at state schools. But it felt like the right thing to do, having gone to public schools my whole life."

"This is the largest donation that the University of Maryland has ever received as a state school... But it felt like the right thing to do, having gone to public schools my whole life."

Iribe said he was also motivated to make the donation by a new wave of tech entrepreneurs, including Mark Zuckerberg, whose Facebook acquired Oculus for more than $2 billion.

"They've really been giving while living," Iribe said. "They've been out there making significant charitable donations and supporting education while they're still successful and working, not retired... When [students] come to this building, it's not going to be named for some person who's already passed away or is long out of the press and spotlight. This building is going to be in the name of somebody who's still out there, working as hard as they can to change the world."

Iribe acknowledged the philanthropy in the gaming industry is fairly uncommon, and suggested it was largely because there are so few exits for entrepreneurs on the scale of a Microsoft, Facebook, or Google. Still, he hopes his own gift will inspires other successful people to do the same, and not wait until they've retired to give back some of the wealth they've amassed.

"This is really just the beginning of a long commitment, from myself, Michael, but also Oculus, on supporting education and academics," Iribe said. "This is my personal commitment and donation, but the company itself will be supporting that in a big way, and Mark Zuckerberg is very supportive of this. I've talked to him about the plan and how to get Oculus in as many students' hands to begin with as possible, and he's very supportive."

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Brendan Sinclair avatar

Brendan Sinclair

Managing Editor

Brendan joined GamesIndustry International in 2012. Based in Toronto, Ontario, he was previously senior news editor at CBS-owned GameSpot in the US.

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