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Nancy and Peter Meinig and family donate $25 million to support innovative Cornell research in the life sciences

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Cornell President David Skorton has announced a $25 million gift from the family of Nancy '62 and Peter Meinig '61 to recognize and support outstanding, innovative faculty life sciences research at Cornell.

Peter Meinig is chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees. His wife, Nancy, is a member of the Cornell University Council.

The announcement -- complete with champagne toast -- was made by Skorton at the trustees dinner in Duffield Hall's Baum Atrium May 25.

The Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigatorships in the Life Sciences will be highly competitive, taking into account the background, achievements, promise and proposed research agenda of faculty applicants. While the funding initially will be available to researchers at the Ithaca campus, it will be extended to researchers at Weill Cornell Medical College as matching funds become available.

Meinig Investigators will receive 50 percent salary support, direct research support (amounts to be individually determined) and graduate student/postdoctoral support. Each investigator will have access to approximately $300,000 per year for five years.

"We are now at a critical point in seeking support for the New Life Sciences Initiative," said Skorton. "At a time when Cornell is facing the prospect of as many as 600 faculty retirements over the next decade, and when competition for the best people to replace them is intense, the robust funding provided by the Meinig Family Investigatorships will serve to attract the very best life scientists, physical scientists, engineers, computer scientists and applied mathematicians to Cornell."

The Meinig Investigatorships will add an important new piece to the overall life sciences initiative, said Skorton.

Cornell's $650 million New Life Sciences Initiative aims to keep the university competitive in light of vast changes in genomics and interdisciplinary research. Some key pieces of the initiative include the Life Sciences Technology Building now under construction on Cornell's main campus; the creation of the Institute of Cell and Molecular Biology; and the hiring of the new institute's director, renowned biologist Scott Emr, who this month was elected to the National Academy of Sciences.

Faculty members will compete for the awards annually through a senior scientific advisory committee. To fund five or more investigators a year for five years, an initial investment of $50 million in endowment funds will be required.

"We have purposefully directed this gift at the very heart of our comprehensive campaign and at one of the priorities set by our great president, provost and our wonderful faculty," Peter Meinig said. "We want this gift to set an example for all who are [thinking], or soon will think, about their own contributions to Cornell at this very important moment in our history."

He quoted William Wordsworth's lines: "Give all thou canst; high Heaven rejects the lore of nicely-calculated less or more."

Added Nancy Meinig: "As many of you know, Pete and I were college sweethearts. ... Romanticism is what brings a couple together but realism is what sees them through. Our gift is the product of our romantic attachment to our alma mater as well as a realistic assessment of how much we could stretch to help Cornell remain at the forefront of research and teaching."

The Meinigs are Foremost Benefactors of Cornell with a long history as university donors. They established the Meinig Family Professorship of Engineering and the Nancy Schlegel Meinig Professorship of Maternal and Child Nutrition. In 1998 the Meinigs provided program support for the Cornell National Scholars Program, which was renamed the Meinig Family National Scholars Program.

The scholars program gift was particularly meaningful for the Meinigs because their daughters, Anne Meinig Smalling '87, Sally Meinig Snipes and Kathryn Meinig Geib, MBA '93, joined their parents in supporting promising young students at Cornell. The Meinig family gift was the largest up to that time for scholarships at Cornell.


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Krishna Ramanujan