At a moment in American higher education when faculty retirements, student scholarship aid and investments in education challenge every institution, Cornell has received 14 major new gifts totaling $71.5 million that include the largest donations in the university's history to the arts and humanities.
The latest gifts send the university's $4 billion capital campaign past the $1 billion mark for the Ithaca campus and boost the overall campaign (including Weill Cornell Medical College) to nearly $1.8 billion.
The $48 million in gifts to the College of Arts and Sciences include endowments of $5 million each for the department chairs in English, government and economics, the last of which is from trustee Donald C. Opatrny '74. In addition, Stanford H. Taylor '50, Chem.Eng. '51, and his wife, Jo Ann, have given $4 million to name the chair of the Sage School of Philosophy.
The new gifts also include $5 million from Kenneth F. Kahn '69 to endow and name the deanship for the ILR (industrial and labor relations) School. The social sciences at Cornell are receiving a tremendous boost through these endowments, said David Harris, vice provost for social sciences and university deputy provost. "Gifts like these are critical to implementing the plans that we have for moving the social sciences forward at Cornell University," Harris said.
In addition, $5 million to endow and name the deanship for the College of Architecture, Art and Planning has been given by trustee Ira Drukier '66, M.Eng. '67, and his wife, Gale.
Also, three gifts totaling $3.5 million are benefiting the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art. Gifts to build a vitally needed new wing came from Presidential Councillors Bob Appel '53 and his wife, Helen '55, ($1 million) and from Presidential Councillor Susan Eckert Lynch in memory of her late husband, Ronald P. Lynch '58, who served as vice chair of the Cornell Board of Trustees ($1.5 million). And a gift of $1 million to name a new curator came from the Drukiers.
"These gifts show the campaign building momentum for all areas of the college, but particularly in the humanities," said Peter Lepage, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. "Cornell, historically, has been very well known for its multidisciplinary work. We're well positioned to hire interesting scholars who have a broader view because we have a tradition and an infrastructure -- like the Society for the Humanities -- to support that."
Among the gifts to the college is $15 million -- on its own, the largest gift to the humanities in the university's history -- donated anonymously by a third-generation Cornellian. Charles Phlegar, vice president for alumni affairs and development, said of the gift: "The donor has been generous to Cornell in the past, supporting multiple areas of the university. It is the donor's intent and desire that this gift will be used to expand the artistic, intellectual and risk-engendering environment at Cornell."
Another anonymous gift to the humanities, by a couple, is of $10 million, half of which will name the chair in the Department of English.
"English is by far the largest humanities department in the Arts College, and it is a linchpin for the humanities," said Lepage. "The arts college does almost half the teaching of the university even though it comprises only a third of the faculty. That's why these gifts are great for the whole university. We provide the liberal arts component for every Cornell undergraduate program."
"Faculty and programs in the humanities rarely receive funding on the scale of this anonymous gift," said English department chair Molly Hite. "The donors' very generous recognition of the English department will allow us to continue our strong academic tradition. Furthermore, it will support endeavors yet to be imagined. Our department is delighted to receive this wonderful gift, which enables us to make major decisions about the future shape of English at Cornell."
Scott MacDonald, the Norma K. Regan Professor in Christian Studies and professor and chair of the Sage School of Philosophy, said of the $4 million gift to his school: "The Taylors' gift to Cornell is an expression of their passionate commitment to the life of the mind and their vision for the critical, creative and integrative role of philosophical thought in our endeavors to live meaningful lives in the 21st century. Emerging science, encounters with other cultures, competing theoretical models and methodologies, and myriad other fast-changing developments in the modern world challenge us to reflect in sustained and sophisticated ways on what it means to be human and how to live a distinctively human life. An unrestricted gift of this magnitude will immediately and dramatically strengthen philosophy at Cornell."
One gift among the $71.5 million is from a foundation: The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has issued a $2.5 million challenge grant to help the College of Arts and Sciences create new faculty positions in the humanities.
And with one notable exception, all of the gifts from individuals are in the spirit of "giving while living." The exception is a $6.5 million gift from the estate of the late Beatrice Mayhew Moore Stump '37 to the College of Arts and Sciences. Stump, who died in September, has bequeathed $3.25 million to undergraduate scholarship aid and $3.25 million to the college's unrestricted endowment.
Outside the arts and humanities, two gifts totaling up to $10 million will enable further research into energy and sustainability. The gifts are $5 million from trustee David Croll '70 for a professorship and program funds within the College of Engineering, and $1 million annually over three to five years from University Council member David Atkinson '60 as seed money to help launch the Center for a Sustainable Future.
Since Lepage became dean four years ago, he has seen a turnover of nearly a quarter of arts and sciences college faculty, mostly due to retirement. He estimates an equal number will retire in the next half-dozen years. "Hiring is extremely important, and we are lucky that the capital campaign is happening now because it allows us to create endowments that are extremely attractive to faculty," he said. "When a department has resources, potential hires know they will have access to those resources."
Lepage said he is eager to put the money to work in his college. "One of my goals is to give departments flexibility about how they use these resources," he said. "I want to tap into their creativity on curriculum development, recruitment and retention. Part of our campaign goal is to endow as many department chair positions as possible, because endowments generate funds that support research and teaching throughout entire departments."
Cornell plans to make the most of its new support, according to Lepage. "This is really an exciting time. Energy, ideas and a very great sense of possibility abound at this moment."
The bottom line for 14 major gifts to Cornell.
College of Arts and Sciences --
$15 million: An anonymous gift for the humanities.
$10 million: An anonymous gift for the humanities, half of which will name the English department chair.
$5 million: An anonymous gift to endow the chair of the government department.
$4 million: From Stanford H. Taylor '50, Chem.Eng. '51, and his wife, Jo Ann, to name the chair of the Sage School of Philosophy.
$2.5 million: A challenge grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create new faculty positions.
$5 million: From Kenneth Kahn '69 to endow the deanship.
$5 million: From trustee Ira Drukier '66, M.Eng. '67, and his wife, Gale, to endow the deanship.
$1 million: From the Drukiers.
$1 million: From Presidential Councillors Bob Appel '53 and his wife, Helen '55.
$1.5 million: From Presidential Councillor Susan Eckert Lynch.
$5 million: From trustee David Croll '70 for a professorship and program funds for energy research.
$1 million annually over three to five years: From David Atkinson '60 to help launch Cornell's Center for a Sustainable Future.