Buffalo Grove graduate donates $1 million to establish Saulius Ploplys robotics lab

A 2,000-square-foot space inside Buffalo Grove High School will become a state-of-the-art robotics, manufacturing and biomedical healthcare innovation lab at the school, thanks to a generous donation from Class of 1988 alumnus Stephen Yacktman and his wife Ellyn.

A 2,000-square-foot space inside Buffalo Grove High School will become a state-of-the-art robotics, manufacturing and biomedical healthcare innovation lab at the school, thanks to a generous donation from Class of 1988 alumnus Stephen Yacktman and his wife Ellyn.

A Buffalo Grove High School alumnus has donated $1 million to support the creation of a state-of-the-art robotics, manufacturing and biomedical healthcare innovation lab at the school.

Stephen Yacktman’s (center) senior yearbook picture.

Stephen Yacktman’s (center) senior yearbook picture.

Working with the District 214 Education Foundation, Class of 1988 alumnus Stephen Yacktman and his wife Ellyn donated the $1 million in June.

It is the largest single gift in the school’s 46-year history.

The donation is made in honor of Yacktman's former AP Physics instructor, Saulius Ploplys, who retired in 2003. The lab will be named for Ploplys and his legacy.

Saulius Ploplys and Stephen Yacktman.

Saulius Ploplys and Stephen Yacktman.

"This is an incredible gift that pays tribute to the education Mr. Yacktman received in our schools and also funds future generations of students," said Erin Brooks, District 214 Education Foundation executive director. "We are truly inspired by the generosity of this contribution, and the opportunities it will provide for Buffalo Grove High School. We work frequently with alumni who wish to pay tribute to teachers who changed their lives, and these gifts repeatedly demonstrate the positive impact of public education."

Yacktman, who grew up in Arlington Heights, is chief investment officer at Yacktman Asset Management. In an initial conversation with the Foundation, he noted that he attributes much of his success in life to his experiences at Buffalo Grove High School.

“Buffalo Grove High School, and the opportunities I received there, placed me on a path to success and helped me become the person I am today," said Yacktman, who was involved in the arts and athletics while in high school and then attended Brigham Young University, where he graduated with an economics degree and MBA. Though his professional career is in the finance arena, he maintains a passion for manufacturing, engineering, science and technology. 

In addition to the funding he provided, he has offered expertise and direction in creating a lab that will be innovative and one-of-a-kind, ensuring students have opportunities to try new things and leave high school college and career ready.

"My hope is that this new lab will help Buffalo Grove students develop workforce skills and provide training that leads them to careers of all kinds," Yacktman said, noting the demand for skilled workers in areas like manufacturing. "This is about helping them discover their future, and helping them determine what motivates and inspires them, and then making sure they are equipped to succeed as Buffalo Grove graduates."  

Ploplys worked at District 214 for more than 30 years as science educator, teaching Chemistry, Physics, Honors Physics and Advanced Placement Physics courses. He was beloved among parents and students, many of whom were thankful for his excellent teaching abilities and sense of humor. Yacktman remains in touch with him.

The District 214 Education Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization supporting student success, innovation and lifelong learning beyond the limitations of conventional funding for public education. It provides opportunities for namings, sponsorships, advertising, planned giving, scholarships and other student-supporting assistance.

For more information, visit www.214foundation.org.