Oct. 18, 2005

Fullers' gift will create learning center in life sciences building

H. Laurance Fuller '60, ChemE '61, and his wife, Nancy L. Fuller '62.
H. Laurance Fuller '60, ChemE '61, and his wife, Nancy L. Fuller '62.

If baseball can be considered a metaphor for life, then H. Laurance Fuller '60, ChemE '61, has a fastball edge. The retired CEO of BP/Amoco credits Cornell with improving his game -- and he isn't just talking baseball. Four undergraduate years as varsity pitcher for the Cornell baseball team, and five years as an engineering student, gave him confidence in his ability to compete.

"My grades were better when I had the discipline of being involved in a sport," he recalled. "Cornell is an exceedingly challenging and competitive place, and it increases everyone's view of hard work and intellectual challenge. Not only did I learn a lot, but I found that it was enjoyable to accept challenges."

Now Fuller and his wife, Nancy '62, are issuing an implicit challenge to others to support Cornell. They have made a multimillion-dollar lead gift to the university to name the H. Laurance and Nancy L. Fuller Learning Center in the new Life Sciences Technology Building, now under construction on Alumni Field, and provide endowment funds for the Lab of Ornithology's Evolutionary Biology Program and a graduate fellowship.

"We're planning a major campaign, and it's terribly important, we thought, to maintain momentum, especially in light of the change in administration and the resignation of our vice president of alumni affairs and development," he explained. "I just retired from the board [the Cornell Board of Trustees] and it seemed like a good time to show our confidence in the institution."

Added Nancy: "We have made significant gifts to my undergraduate school and his in the past. This is an opportunity to give to something that's brand new, that evolved long after we left the campus."

The Fullers have been named Cornell foremost benefactors and Laurance Fuller is a member of the Life Sciences Advisory Board, a presidential councilor and a trustee emeritus. The couple, both of whom came to Cornell on scholarships, in 1995 established the Nancy Lawrence and H. Laurance Fuller Cornell Tradition Fellowship, which provides financial aid for human ecology and engineering students who juggle academics with work and community service. In 2000, BP/Amoco established the H. Laurance Fuller Professorship in the School of Chemical Engineering to honor Laurance Fuller's retirement. Both Fullers remain involved with the Lab of Ornithology's advisory board.

"The biological sciences have held a strong interest for me," Nancy Fuller said. "At one point when I was at Cornell I thought I wanted to go on in biochemistry and get a master's in that area. I did not end up following that route; I had a double major in textiles and food nutrition."

As a chemical engineer who also sits on the board of directors of Motorola, Abbott Laboratories and Cabot Microelectronics, Fuller understands the value of building on Cornell's strengths.

"Life sciences has had a major impact at Cornell for a long time, and the university is a strong place for the field to continue to grow and prosper," he said. "One of the major keys to success in the new building and its surroundings is collaboration between students and faculty, and among faculty all around campus in the various sciences and engineering disciplines. It appeared to us that the Learning Center would be a place where collaboration would occur. In addition to encouraging individual investigators, the center will bring a lot of very smart people together, creating new ideas."

Construction of the new Life Sciences Technology Building began last spring. The $147 million project is the centerpiece of the New Life Sciences Initiative.

The Lab of Ornithology's Evolutionary Biology Program, the other area the Fullers' gift supports, uses the tools of molecular biology to explore biodiversity and expand understanding of the natural world so that people can make wise conservation decisions. The Fullers also supported the Lab's recent campaign for building the Imogene Powers Johnson Center for Biodiversity.

Noted Laurance Fuller, "We know that Cornell's campaign will be successful and enhance our position as one of the premier research universities in the world."