UConn Receives $22.5M Gift for Entrepreneurship, Innovation

The pledge from Peter Werth, an innovator in generic prescription medication, is the second-largest in University history.

Peter J. Werth speaks at an event to announce his $22.5 million commitment to the University and the naming of the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower on Dec. 4, 2017. Seated is President Susan Herbst. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

In the fiscal year that just ended, the UConn Foundation raised the largest annual amount in its history, and reported an increase in the number of donors, bucking a nationwide trend. The largest gift this past year was Peter J. Werth's $22.5 million commitment to the University to support entrepreneurship and innovation. (Peter Morenus/UConn Photo)

The UConn Foundation has received a $22.5 million commitment from Peter J. Werth, ensuring a legacy of innovation and entrepreneurship for generations of students to come.

“Peter’s transformative and historic commitment cements his legacy as a most generous friend to UConn,” said Josh Newton, President and CEO, UConn Foundation. “As a steadfast UConn supporter for many years, Peter has previously given very generously to our athletic programs. We’re grateful that his generosity has expanded to include academics, especially into an area that supports the economy of our state: entrepreneurship and innovation. We hope he will inspire others to follow his lead.”

Announced today at a press conference at NextGen Residence Hall on the main campus in Storrs, Werth’s commitment is the second-largest in University history, behind Ray and Carole Neag’s $23 million pledge in 1999.

$2.5 million will be paid over the next five years to establish the Peter J. Werth Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. The Institute, under University leadership, will bring together student and faculty programs fostering entrepreneurship and innovation that potentially have commercial application and can be used to create new companies. In addition to nurturing innovation, the Institute will facilitate entrepreneurship speaker forums and host an entrepreneur-in-residence to instruct students.

The remaining $20 million is an estate gift, providing ongoing support for the Werth Institute in perpetuity and ensuring Werth’s legacy at UConn for generations to come. In recognition of this historic commitment, the NextGen Residence Hall will now be known as the Peter J. Werth Residence Tower.

“An investment in UConn is an investment in the University’s spirit of innovation,” said Werth, CEO, President, and Chairman of ChemWerth, Inc. “While I didn’t attend UConn, I have come to believe in its mission, and see the importance of creating opportunities for innovation at our state’s flagship university. I’m delighted and honored that I could make this gift in support of young entrepreneurs, as they create innovative solutions for today’s unique challenges.”

Werth earned his bachelor’s degree from Fort Hays State University in Kansas and his master’s degree from Stanford University, beginning his professional career as an R&D scientist in the early 1960s. Working from a room above the garage in his Woodbridge, Connecticut home, he established ChemWerth Inc., a full-service generic drug development and supply company, in 1982.

His vision was to produce U.S. FDA-quality active pharmaceutical ingredients in China, which would make generic drugs more accessible and affordable. He immersed himself in the local Chinese market and worked alongside manufacturers to achieve the necessary quality of ingredients. Today, sourcing active pharmaceutical ingredients from China is an industry norm, providing a significant cost savings on medication for millions.

His dedication to improving the lives of people through affordable generic medicine is matched by his most generous philanthropic spirit. Werth’s previous commitment provided the lead gift for the Werth Family UConn Basketball Champions Center, a world-class facility for the UConn women’s and men’s basketball teams. In addition to his numerous charitable donations to UConn, he is the president of The Werth Family Foundation Inc., which was established in 2001 to support Connecticut communities, with a focus on higher education, children’s services, human services, the arts, and the environment. Werth is also a 2015 honorary Doctor of Science degree recipient from UConn.

“Words cannot express how thankful we are to Peter for his extraordinary gift,” said UConn President Susan Herbst. “This incredible gesture will transform student lives, supporting their entrepreneurial spirit as they create the businesses of the future. Peter is a remarkable individual and wonderful friend to UConn. We are deeply grateful for his generosity.”