Adversity never stopped Fred Luddy. He was too busy overcoming challenges, building a successful career and making a difference at Indiana University and beyond.
That earned the founder of ServiceNow and major donor to the Luddy School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering the Horatio Alger Award and lifetime membership into the prestigious Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans.
The non-profit organization honors the achievements of outstanding individuals and encourages youth to pursue their higher-education dreams. For 76 years, the Horatio Alger Award has recognized leaders who have overcome adversity and remained committed to education and charitable efforts. The award symbolizes the Association’s values of personal initiative, perseverance, leadership, commitment to excellence, belief in the free-enterprise system and the importance of higher education and community service.
Luddy was one of 13 business, civic, and cultural leaders across North America inducted during last week's three-day ceremony in Washington D.C.
“Fred Luddy embodies what hard work, dedication and vision can accomplish," said Joanna Millunchick, Luddy School dean. "He exemplifies the best of Indiana University. His incredible commitment to our school and university benefits our students, faculty and staff in so many ways. It has made so much possible, now and in the future.”
Luddy’s transformative $60 million gift in 2019 established a multidisciplinary initiative in artificial intelligence at Indiana University that has become the Luddy Center for Artificial Intelligence. Money also funded the construction of Luddy Hall, created six endowed chairs, six endowed professorships and six endowed faculty fellowships, plus graduate and undergraduate scholarships.
Luddy’s story is one of taking risks.
He dropped out of Indiana University to pursue a career in computer programming in Silicon Valley, and earned millions of dollars as chief technology officer for Peregrine Systems, a software management company. Peregrine’s bankruptcy cost him his job and savings, but he came back stronger in 2004 by founding ServiceNow, a multi-billion-dollar, cloud-based company that provides software as a service. ServiceNow employees 15,000.
“I believe that adversity is what makes you who you are,” Luddy said in a Horatio Alger Association news release. “Losing my job and my life’s earnings was one of the best things to ever happen to me. That situation forced me to figure out exactly what I wanted. I’m thrilled to become a part of the Horatio Alger Association, and hope that my story might serve as inspiration for some of its amazing scholars as they navigate challenges of their own and determine their purpose and passion.”
Luddy, who grew up in New Castle, Indiana, (his father was an accountant; his mother was a Catholic school teacher) is the president of the Fred B. Luddy Family Foundation, which has donated more than $5 million to education and healthcare-related causes around the country.
Luddy’s commitment to Indiana University remains strong. In 2020, he was presented with IU’s Bicentennial Medal. In 2017, Indiana University awarded him an honorary doctor of humane letters.
Beyond university recognition, in 2011, Luddy received the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award, which honors ambitious visionaries leading dynamic businesses. He also owns the San Diego Aviators, a professional tennis team.
“Determined to succeed, Mr. Luddy built a multi-billion-dollar business from the ground up and defines what it means to be self-made,” said Terrence J. Giroux, Horatio Alger Association executive director in the release. “At the same time, he understands the importance of giving back to those who have helped you along the way and believes firmly in the power of education to transform lives. He displays resilience and integrity in all he does, and we’re honored that he will be joining the Association as a lifetime member.”