University names Saieh Hall for Economics in honor of donation

University Trustee Alvaro Saieh, AM’76, PhD’80, has made a significant donation to the University of Chicago in support of a new home for the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics.

In recognition of Saieh’s generous contribution to the renovation and adaptive reuse of the historically significant building at 5757 S. University Ave., the iconic red-brick structure has been named the Saieh Hall for Economics.

Saieh’s gift builds upon his deep connections with the University, dating from his own research in economics as a graduate student. Currently the president of Chile-based CorpGroup Holding, and a philanthropist with interests including the arts and education, Saieh has served on the University’s board of trustees since 2012.

“Economics scholarship at the University of Chicago has a distinctive tradition of excellence, which continues to produce critical new insights as it educates the next generation of economists,” said President Robert J. Zimmer. “We are deeply grateful for Alvaro’s generosity, which provides support for our faculty, students, visitors and initiatives that will fuel collaboration and discoveries with global impact.”

Saieh serves as chairman of CorpGroup, his holding company, which has investments in retail, finance, real estate and media in Chile. In his early career, he held various public sector positions, including adviser to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works and head of research for the Chilean Central Bank.

Saieh and his family also have supported a variety of cultural and social causes. An internationally known art collector, Saieh and his family founded CorpArtes in Santiago, a foundation which promotes visual arts, theater, music, cinema, education and other cultural ventures. On July 31, 2014, the foundation will open its Cultural Center, which includes a major art gallery and a 900-seat theater.

Saieh and his family also are involved in Descubreme, a foundation that supports people and institutions that work to create opportunities with people who have cognitive disabilities.

He has been awarded more than 20 national and international awards for his business accomplishments, and contributions to economic growth in his country and the region, and his support to the Arts and Education. In 2005, the University of Chile named Saieh a professor emeritus for his long academic career.

Saieh Hall for Economics

Originally built between 1923 and 1927, the historic building at 5757 S. University Ave. was home to the Chicago Theological Seminary. The University purchased the property in 2008 and launched an adaptive reuse project designed by the Boston-based Ann Beha Architects, a recognized leader in the adaptive reuse of historical buildings. The renovation and expansion have preserved as much of the character of the building as possible while making it accessible and useful for current academic purposes.

The Gothic-influenced building now stands at the heart of the UChicago campus, blending historic architecture with a fully updated facility, accommodating modern study areas, conference rooms, lecture halls and offices. 

When it opens this summer, the Saieh Hall for Economics will comprise 150,000 square feet of classrooms, seminar and conference rooms, and collaborative workspaces. It will accommodate the instructional and research needs of the Department of Economics, and facilities for the Becker Friedman Institute for Research in Economics, including offices and conference space.

“The Saieh Hall for Economics is a significant advance for the Becker Friedman Institute,” said Lars Peter Hansen, research director for the Becker Friedman Institute and the David Rockefeller Distinguished Service Professor in Economics. “Now we will have our own dedicated space to host visitors and foster the collaborations that are at the heart of our mission.”

“A remarkable number of fundamental economic ideas in the 20th century have a direct link to Chicago Economics, where brilliant thinkers have shaped public policy, the law and the nature of debate more generally,” said John List, chairman of Economics and the Homer J. Livingston Professor in Economics. “Having a world-class facility will ensure that Chicago remains the hub for academics and researchers in related fields for the 21st century.”

In this new location, the Department of Economics and the Becker Friedman Institute will be well-positioned among their many campus partners, including Chicago Booth, the Department of Statistics, the Computation Institute, the Stevanovich Center for Financial Mathematics, the Law School, the Harris School of Public Policy Studies and the College.

The main entrance of the Saieh Hall for Economics will open upon a new, landscaped pedestrian walkway on 58th Street between University and Woodlawn avenues. That change will improve the physical link between Chicago Booth’s iconic Charles M. Harper Center and other facilities to the east with the central campus, extending the look and feel of the main quadrangles.