It is the school's fourth-largest donation from an individual in the last five years.
Officially, the gift will put the Lindy name on Drexel's Center for Civic Engagement, which will also create classes to teach students how to improve the communities around them.
"We have set a goal to become the most civically engaged university in the nation, and Phil's gift will move us closer to achieving that," Drexel President John Fry said.
The gift will be announced Friday as part of Fry's inauguration. Fry joined Drexel as president on Aug. 1 from Franklin and Marshall College, where he was president. He previously served as executive vice president at the University of Pennsylvania.
Fry and Lindy found common cause in West Philadelphia - and in Drexel.
While Fry was at Penn, he drove that school's largely successful plan to revitalize its West Philadelphia neighborhood.
His efforts helped bring new development to the area: a movie theater and grocer; the development of the Penn Alexander School, which benefits from money and expertise from Penn; and the creation of the University City District, which has promoted relations among colleges, retailers, and residents.
Lindy, 80, graduated from Penn's Wharton School. (Unprompted, he broke into his class chant during an interview: "Who's the best? Here's a clue: Pennsylvania 52!")
As Lindy made his fortune building and managing about 3,500 apartment homes in the Philadelphia region, his thoughts often dwelled on the trash-strewn, despairing neighborhoods around his alma mater.
"This is the place where MOVE came from," he said, referring to the notorious city bombing.
In 2008, he funded the Lindy Scholars program, which tries to increase the high school graduation rate of Philadelphia residents.
The program pairs 25 Drexel students with 75 middle school students for after-school tutoring and mentoring sessions. It also works with teachers, parents, and guardians of students at several schools.
Lindy loved the energy he saw in the Lindy Scholars.
The more he learned, the more he felt like the scholars program was just a start. He knew many children in Philadelphia went hungry. He knew they needed better educations and safer homes.
Fixing those problems, he believes, requires a broader approach.
"Essentially, there is a culture gap and to me, you're not going to solve the hunger problem by feeding. You're not going to fix the job problem by providing a few jobs," Lindy said. "It's a whole problem that involves all of the above."
So when Fry suggested a gift, he was striking at a hot iron.
Eventually, the center will open up a facility that will provide nutritional and health counseling to West Philadelphia residents. The Lindy money also will provide student "community interns" to help area nonprofits and businesses grow. Other goals include greening and renovating city playgrounds and getting more fruits and vegetables into corner stores.
Lindy says he is hoping his gift will inspire other donations.
"I've always dreamed that the thing that a person has to do in this world is to leave this place a little better," he said.
His gift, he said, is not altruistic.
"You don't understand Lindy's mathematics of philanthropic giving, which is very selfish," he said. "You take $100. You give away $20. You still have $80. You get for that $20 the friendship of the people who implement the use of the money that you give; you gain the connection of the people who are involved in giving monies to other people, . . . and for some magical reason because people like you . . . the till fills up to $100 again and sometimes more than $100."
Major Donations to Drexel
Philip Lindy's $15 million donation is the fourth-largest by an individual in the last five years. The others are:
$45 million, from Bennett LeBow in 2010, to build the New Academic Center for the Bennett S. LeBow College of Business.
$25 million, given anonymously in 2008, to purchase 3501 Market St. as a new home for the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.
$18 million, from Rainer J. Westphal in 2005, to name the Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design after his late wife.
Staff writer Susan Snyder contributed to this article.
Contact staff writer Miriam Hill at 215-854-5520 or email@example.com.