University of Dubuque officials today announced a new $60 million estate gift that will be used to support scholarships for students.

The investment from the late Edward A. Babka, a former university trustee, and his wife, Shirley, marks the largest single gift in the school's 164-year history.

"It's breathtaking, and it's also a holy moment, and it will strengthen every student's experience here," President Jeffrey Bullock said.

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The money will go to UD's endowment and support the Ed and Shirley Babka Scholarship Fund, according to a press release from the school. 

The scholarship fund will help support the $15.5 million the school provides each year in institutional scholarships. When the $60 million invested into the endowment fully matures, it will create an extra $2 million per year in scholarships, Bullock said. 

UD has received $37 million of the gift since Edward Babka died in June at the age of 88. The remaining funds will be provided to the school at a future time, though when is confidential, Bullock said. 

Aiding students with the cost of their education is critical to helping them live out their potential, said Peter Smith, vice president for enrollment management and university relations.

"For us at UD, we talk about it in terms of continuing the university as a place of hope, promise and opportunity for students, so we are extraordinarily grateful to Ed and Shirley Babka for making this investment in the university. And it is an investment -- it's an investment in our future," Smith said.

More than 2,300 undergraduate, graduate and seminary students were enrolled at UD in the fall. A full-time undergraduate student paid an estimated $37,824 for tuition, fees, room and board during the 2016-2017 academic year, according to the school's website.

The estate gift will bring the university's endowment to more than $150 million, a "major mile marker" as university officials work toward reaching a base endowment of $250 million, according to the release.

"We know that endowment is the key, and estate gifts oftentimes are the largest investment that a person will make in the university," Smith said.

Chairman of the Board of Trustees Joseph Chlapaty said the gift marks a positive development at a time when scholarships are needed to help minimize students' debt burdens.

Edward Babka knew what an education could mean for people and he was committed to helping them go to school, Chlapaty said.

"It's going to be meaningful, and we hope it will light a fire, so to speak, for others to follow in Ed's footsteps," he said.

Investing in students' lives

Edward Babka founded The Antique Trader, a newspaper for antique collectors, and moved his operations to Dubuque in 1969. It eventually grew to become the largest national weekly newspaper catering to collectors and buyers of antiques.

Babka served on UD's board of trustees for more than 43 years. He and his wife's philanthropic contributions at the school include funding the Babka Bookstore and third-floor renovations in Peters Commons, the Babka Computer Center, the Babka Blackbox Theater in the Heritage Center, a student apartment building on campus and financial scholarships.

Frank Babka said the gift marked the result of 60 years of his father's hard work -- 35 years as executive of his company and 25 years in investing and estate planing.

"My dad thought the world of education," Frank said. "That was always one of his top priorities. … I have total confidence that this university will do a great job with this money that is coming its way."

During a public announcement of the UD gift, Bullock told the gathered students that Edward Babka was making an investment in them and would ask that, in return, they invest in the people who come after them.

"Through the University of Dubuque, he wanted to invest in each one of you," Bullock said. "He believed in you, in what you could accomplish with your lives and contribute through your lives if you were formed, challenged and nurtured in a place where faculty members and staff members challenged you, loved you, nurtured you and even inspired you."

Ryan England, an international admission counselor, attended the campus gathering for the announcement. He said he couldn't fathom the impact the gift would have on students.

From an admissions standpoint, the top concern he hears from students is the cost of attendance, and being able to help them was important. He said there was a lot of buzz around campus leading up to the announcement, even though the details were not released ahead of time.

"You could hear a pin drop at  that moment (the announcement was made)," he said. "It's just phenomenal that he's able to do this for this university."