Notre Dame launches new Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society

Author: Patrick Gibbons

Campus sunrise. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

In the past decade, the University of Notre Dame has made significant investments to create a strong foundation in new data-driven academic programs, including programs in applied and computational mathematics and statistics, business analytics, an online master’s degree in data science, a University-wide undergraduate minor in data science, and a proposed liberal arts computer science major, to name a few. 

These programs complement and enhance existing undergraduate and graduate degree programs in computer science and computer engineering as well as a number of college and university centers and institutes devoted to the collection, curation and analysis of data to support decision-making in key problem domains across society.

The University will now take the next steps in these efforts, thanks to a transformative $25 million gift from alumnus Robert Lumpkins and his wife, Sara, a Saint Mary’s College graduate, to establish the Lucy Family Institute for Data & Society, an interdisciplinary, university-wide hub that will connect faculty, students and research across existing data science and analytics programs on campus while serving as a catalyst for future programmatic needs.

The new institute also will serve as an incubator for collaboration with industry, government and academia to advance data-science and analytic innovations. In doing so, the Lucy Family Institute aims to make Notre Dame a leader in data science and analytics, graduating students in all fields who are data-enabled, analytically savvy and ethically driven.

The Lumpkins, who over the years have generously funded numerous scholarships, endowed faculty positions and applied programs in business, science and mathematics at Notre Dame, asked that the new institute be named in honor of a meaningful name within the Lumpkins’ family, “Lucy.”

“We are exceedingly grateful to Bob and Sara for their past generosity in helping Notre Dame keep pace with emerging trends in data science and business analytics,” University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “With this latest gift, they have ensured that our undergraduate, graduate and professional students will wield the latest tools, knowledge and innovations to better society and the world.”

Thomas Burish, Charles and Jill Fischer Provost, said the gift will provide resources needed to grow and strengthen the faculty across a broad range of disciplines that leverage data science and analytics applications, create new innovative academic and research programs, and enhance external engagement through conferences, publications and industry partnerships.

“Bob and Sara have been tremendous partners and supporters in our efforts to strengthen data- and analytics-driven academic programs and research at Notre Dame,” Burish said. “Much of the progress we have made in this area is a result of their vision, leadership and generosity.”

Mary Galvin, William K. Warren Foundation Dean of Notre Dame’s College of Science, where several existing data science and applied mathematics programs reside, agreed.

“Our ability to offer innovative and rigorous academic degree programs that integrate data science and analysis across disciplines, regardless of a student’s chosen major or career aspirations, is vital to helping our students succeed after graduation,” Galvin said. “Bob and Sara’s support of these efforts has been unfailing.”

Burish said that as the new institute grows and expands it will collaborate closely with the University’s existing data-analytics, ethics and technology-related research centers as part of a broader strategy to apply advanced data science and analytics techniques in fields ranging from health and wellness to the social sciences and business.

“We are pleased to support Notre Dame’s vision in this endeavor, which meshes with our values,” Sara and Bob Lumpkins said. “We believe data science and analytics offer a powerful opportunity to enhance interdisciplinary collaboration and learning at the University, and that Notre Dame is uniquely positioned to bring an ethical perspective to its use for the good of society.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in mathematics from Notre Dame and master of business administration degree from Stanford University, Lumpkins began a 38-year career with Cargill Inc., a Minnesota-based provider of food, agriculture, financial and industrial products and services. He served in a succession of line and financial management positions and was the company’s CFO from 1989 to 2005. He was elected to the Cargill board of directors in 1991 and elected vice chair in 1995, retiring in 2006. Among his achievements at Cargill was founding the company’s hedge fund and distressed asset investment business.

While at Cargill, Lumpkins and a colleague merged the company’s crop nutrition business with a publicly held competitor to create The Mosaic Company, the world’s largest combined producer of phosphates and potash. He served as the company’s chairman of the board from its inception in 2004 to his retirement in 2018.

Bob is a longtime member of Notre Dame’s College of Science Advisory Council. He is a trustee of the Educational Testing Service, a senior advisor to Varde Partners and has served on numerous boards of directors, including several Fortune 500 companies as well as non-profit organizations. He is a trustee emeritus of Howard University.

After earning her bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s, Sara Lumpkins received a master’s degree from the University of Minnesota. She had a 25-year career in education, followed by a “second career” in volunteering and philanthropy. The Lumpkins are residents of Nokomis, Florida, and La Jolla, California.