The University of Chicago (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)

The University of Chicago announced Wednesday it has been given $100 million to establish a center for the study and resolution of global conflicts, a donation that equals the second-largest in the school’s history.

The Pearson Institute for the Study and Resolution of Global Conflicts will occupy a distinctive and unusual niche in academia. One center with a similar mission is the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at the University of Notre Dame.

University President Robert J. Zimmer hailed the gift from the Pearson Family Foundation as “transformative,” saying it signaled “a vital and unprecedented step in confronting the new
era of violent conflicts.” Zimmer said “the study of global conflicts is a field ripe for groundbreaking research approaches, and the Pearson Institute will seek to inform more effective policy solutions for resolving violent conflicts to make a lasting impact around the world.”

A university statement said Thomas L. Pearson and Timothy R. Pearson, leaders of the foundation, are
business entrepreneurs, investors and philanthropists. The twin brothers are 61 years old. Thomas Pearson lives in Oklahoma and Timothy Pearson in Atlanta. They gave to Chicago, officials said, because they were attracted to the private university’s reputation for rigorous, quantitative research.

Thomas Pearson said he hopes the gift will help “identify new strategies now that will address the spectrum of entities engaged in violent conflict, from global superpowers to state and sub-state and non-state groups.”

The gift comes amid a humanitarian crisis in Europe and the Middle East as refugees are fleeing conflicts in Syria and elsewhere — an example, university officials said, of why the institute is needed.

The Pearson Institute will be based in the university’s Harris School of Public Policy. It also will convene yearly meetings of international policy leaders and scholars for an event called the Pearson Global Forum.

In 2008, the university received its largest gift ever, $300 million from alumnus David Booth to benefit the graduate business school. The business school was then named for him.

In 2007, an anonymous donor gave the university $100 million to help launch a campaign drive for undergraduate student aid.

Read more:

Obama chooses Chicago for his presidential library

Two Chicago universities vie for Obama library