Taner Halicioglu’s image is projected at a UC San Diego gala on Saturday. Courtesy UCSD Twitter feed

Facebook pioneer Taner Halicioglu is donating $75 million to his alma mater UC San Diego to jump start a $2 billion fundraising campaign.

Halicioglu joined Facebook in 2004 and managed operations through its first million users. He now leads the Seed San Diego venture fund while lecturing at the university.

His gift, announced Saturday night at a gala to kick off the fundraising campaign, is meant to make the campus a national leader in data science and to launch the public phase of the campaign. It will be used to establish the Halicioglu Institute for Data Science.

It is the largest gift from a graduate in the university’s history.

The contribution comes as the university begins a $1.6 billion construction program that includes housing, classrooms, laboratories and a student center to prepare for an enrollment expected to soon reach 40,000 students.

The slogan of the campaign –“Continue the nontradition” — builds on the university’s worldwide reputation for innovation in the sciences and other fields.

“At UC San Diego, our most cherished tradition is challenging tradition,” the university said in a tweet.

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