Exclusive: AbbVie Continues Philanthropic Giving With $40 Million to Build a Middle School

AbbVie is providing a promising future to the town of North Chicago. The pharma company has donated $40 million to build a brand new middle school for the community.

AbbVie is providing a promising future to the town of North Chicago. The pharma company has donated $40 million to build a brand new middle school for the community.

The philanthropic gift is part of AbbVie’s commitment to donate $350 million to worthwhile charities across the United States.

AbbVie provided the $40 million to North Chicago Community Unit School District (187 to fund the rebuilding of the district’s only middle school: Neal Math & Science Academy. The current school building has had several problems, such as the heat not working in the winter, and has had to shut down on multiple occasions as a result. The Neal Academy will be rebuilt in order to provide a safer and more modern structure for students. Construction on the new Neal Math & Science Academy is expected to begin in 2020 and will provide a 21st-century learning space for the first class of students who will use the building beginning in 2021, Melissa Walsh, AbbVie’s vice president of Corporate Responsibility & Global Philanthropy, told BioSpace in an exclusive interview. Although design plans for the new school have yet to be approved, AbbVie’s donation will allow for the academy to be larger than the current facility. Total square footage will expand from 89,000 square feet to 93,000 square feet. The additional space will support potential student growth at the school if it is needed.

Walsh said AbbVie has close ties to the community of North Chicago, which is where its corporate offices are located. As a corporate resident of the town, Walsh said AbbVie believes it has a responsibility to support solutions in the community.

“This is about more than providing financial assistance to the schools,” Walsh said. “We spend a lot of time working with the school district.”

Walsh said AbbVie employees have spent more than 60,000 hours of volunteer service throughout the community and have provided “significant shoe leather” in service to the area.

Last year AbbVie made a commitment to provide $350 million in charitable contributions, including a $50 million donation to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in December and $100 million to Ronald McDonald House Charities in August. Walsh said the company wanted to do something for its community and, after talking with the school district, settled on the school construction project.

“The existing (middle) school is the only one in North Chicago and has some significant challenges…. There are repairs made on the building annually and we believe those funds can go somewhere else to benefit the school,” Walsh said.

Walsh noted that philanthropy is ingrained in the company culture at AbbVie. She said company leadership believes it has a significant responsibility to give back to its home community, as well as across the United States.

“Corporate responsibility and philanthropy are woven into the culture of who we are at the company,” Walsh said.

AbbVie’s donation to the North Chicago school district isn’t the first the company has made to benefit educational operations. Last year the company donated $55 million to three nonprofits working to address the achievement gap for children in underserved areas across the United States. AbbVie gave $30 million to Communities in Schools, $10 million to City Year and $10 million to the University of Chicago Education Lab. Also as part of its $350 million pledge, AbbVie gave $100 million, $50 million each, to two organizations, Direct Relief and Habitat for Humanity International, to strengthen access to healthcare and housing in Puerto Rico. The donations were made to support rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico following the devastation from Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“I am confident in saying that these grants are transformational for the organizations who have received the funds,” Walsh said. “It’s about impacting and affecting people’s lives.”