Toro Co. is donating $2 million to the University of Minnesota to endow the Toro Co.-David M. Lilly Faculty Chair at the Carlson School of Management.

The company announced the endowment at a ceremony Wednesday to name the learning center at Toro's headquarters after Lilly, who died last year at the age of 96. Lilly's daughter-in-law Paula Lilly said he would have been touched by both the grant and the center because "he was a lifelong learner."

Lilly, a World War II veteran, served as Toro's president from 1950 to 1968 and was on the company's board until 1987. He was also a governor on the Federal Reserve Board, dean of the Carlson School and vice president for finance and operations for the U.

Lilly was awarded several patents while at Toro and is credited with a "commitment to innovation," said Toro CEO Mike Hoffman.

The endowment grant is the largest gift Toro has given to the U over the years, a spokesman said.

Lilly helped build the Carlson School and was especially proud of the business relationships he built for the school, U President Eric Kaler said. Lilly later became a "no-nonsense CFO" who was tireless and creative in making the university a solid institution.

Toro's endowment will help the school win outstanding faculty members and support its teaching and research. Carlson School Dean Sri Zaheer applauded Toro's "very, very generous gift" and announced that Theresa Glomb, a professor of organizational behavior, will be the first to hold the endowed chair.

Perrin Lilly said her late husband would "be very pleased and honored by this. … It's so nice to have him remembered."

Bruce Lilly said his father remained proud of his role in getting Toro into lawn irrigation many years ago. "He said the last thing he wanted to be was one of 'those guys' standing on a lawn, moving garden hoses and sprinklers around. So he went out and helped acquire the Moist O'Matic Company."

Today, Toro's automatic irrigation business is a global multimillion unit that caters to golf courses and home lawns around the world.