Nov. 9, 2011

$100 million gift establishes Belfer Research Building at Weill Cornell

On Nov. 9, Weill Cornell Medical College dedicated the Belfer Research Building, a state-of-the-art facility that will more than double the medical college's existing research space and position Weill Cornell at the vanguard of new medical research and discoveries. A ceremony was held to recognize the generosity of the building's many donors, including a $100 million gift from Renée and Robert Belfer, for whom the building is named.

When it opens in 2014, the 480,000-square-foot building will house bench-to-bedside research targeting some of the world's most daunting health challenges, including cancer, cardiovascular disease, children's health, such neurodegenerative diseases as Parkinson's and Alzheimer's, and global health and infectious diseases.

The $650 million building is the centerpiece of Weill Cornell's $1.3 billion Discoveries that Make a Difference campaign, the country's largest for a medical college, chaired by Robert Appel '53. More than $1.1 billion has been raised toward this goal in just over five years, including 116 gifts of $1 million or more, of which 37 specifically support the new Belfer Research Building.

"I am personally very excited not only by the expanded research potential at Weill Cornell but also by the expanded opportunities that the Belfer Research Building presents for collaboration between our two campuses," said President David Skorton at the ceremony.

Notably, $135 million was provided through a challenge gift from Sanford I. Weill, chairman of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers, and his wife, Joan, as part of their historic $250 million pledge in 2007 -- believed to be the single largest gift ever given to a medical school.

Maurice R. "Hank" Greenberg, a member of the Board of Overseers and chairman and CEO of The Starr Foundation, and his wife, Corinne, have also been leading supporters of the Discoveries campaign. The Starr Foundation has given $75 million, in addition to $25 million from the Greenbergs -- all toward the Belfer Research Building. The Greenbergs and the Starr Foundation also have been generous benefactors of Weill Cornell and NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital, the college's clinical partner. Greenberg is chairman emeritus of the Board of Trustees at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

"The Belfer Research Building is an inspiring symbol of the medical college's ongoing commitment to fostering translational research," said Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. "It is a centerpiece of our tripartite mission to promote biomedical research, medical education and patient care both locally and around the world. I believe it will lead to major innovations in the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of disease."

"As a young man I was treated by physicians at Weill Cornell," said Robert Belfer. "Over the years, this outstanding institution has helped many members of my extended family. I can think of no better way to give back than to hope that the discoveries made at this new research building will help generations of New Yorkers and all mankind to lead healthier lives."

The Belfers are longstanding benefactors to Weill Cornell. A philanthropist and former Enron director, Robert Belfer, who is chairman of Belfer Management LLC, has been on the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers since 1989. He is also a member of the Executive Committee of the medical college and now serves on the steering committee of the Discoveries campaign, formerly as chairman of the campaign's Initiative for Cancer Research.

Renée Belfer is a member of the NewYork Weill Cornell Council. She has been a member of the Executive Committee of the Lying-In Hospital of NewYork-Presbyterian for more than 20 years, and she has been a co-chair of the Annual Fashion Show and Luncheon, which supports the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.