The Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management has boldly expanded its footprint in recent years with the Johnson Cornell Tech MBA in New York City and the Cornell Tsinghua MBA/FMBA in Beijing. Now, thanks to the generosity of staunch supporter and longtime adviser David Breazzano, MBA ’80, the school is expanding closer to home – in Ithaca’s Collegetown.
Breazzano’s gift of $25 million, one of the largest donations ever made to business education at Cornell, will substantially support the new, state-of-the-art, six-story classroom and office building currently under construction at 209-215 Dryden Road. It also provides $4 million for the Breazzano Family Faculty Excellence Fund and substantial current-use support via the Johnson Annual Fund.
“Dave’s extraordinary gift will enhance the quality and capacity of our business programs. It recognizes the need for an additional facility to launch Johnson on its next phase of growth and is a whole-hearted endorsement of Johnson’s faculty,” said Interim President Hunter R. Rawlings III. “We are grateful for Dave’s vote of confidence in Johnson’s future and its role in the Cornell College of Business.”
Dean Soumitra Dutta announced the gift May 16 at Johnson’s premier gala event, Party on Park, in New York City. In recognition of the historic gift, Dutta said, the Cornell University leadership will recommend the Cornell Board of Trustees name the MBA program’s new Collegetown building the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education.
“Dave is an extraordinary leader of the Johnson alumni community,” said Dutta, who will assume his new role as dean of the Cornell College of Business later this year. “He has supported greater collaboration among schools at Cornell and believes the synergies that will result from the Cornell College of Business will benefit all. We are deeply grateful for his willingness to provide such a generous investment in support of Johnson’s continued excellence in business education.”
“Johnson helped me discover my passion and aptitude, then helped me get my first job, and I did well at it because of my education,” said Breazzano, who is co-founder, president and chief investment officer of DDJ Capital Management as well as chair of the Johnson Advisory Council. “That solid foundation has helped me throughout my career. So I have a sense of gratitude. And I always knew I wanted to give back when I was in a position to do so.”
Breazzano’s sons are also members of the Johnson community: Two are Johnson alumni – Jeremy Breazzano, MBA ’11, and Michael Breazzano, MBA ’13 – and the third, Matthew Breazzano, MBA ’16, will graduate this month.
A 76,000-square-foot building expected to open in summer 2017, the Breazzano Family Center for Business Education will serve Johnson MBA and executive education students in four large, interactive, tiered classrooms plus a flat-floor, flexible classroom that can be subdivided into two separate classrooms, said Bob Libby, professor of accounting and faculty lead for the project. Modern in design, with an emphasis on glass and natural wood, the building includes two high-definition broadcast studios and will accommodate student project teams in 42 breakout rooms and 30 open spaces, all with glass walls overlooking a four-story atrium that will be a central gathering spot as well as an elegant venue with superior acoustics designed to accommodate a wide variety of events. Floors four through six will house more than 200 professional and administrative staff.
While conceived primarily to support Johnson’s growth in programs, the Breazzano Family Center will also serve a broader cross-section of business students on the Ithaca campus via its lecture halls, breakout rooms and event space. “This is the first major gift since the creation of the Cornell College of Business,” said Breazzano, who believes the gift will underscore “the value of combining the synergies of the schools.”
Said Dutta: “The Breazzano Family Center will provide state-of-the-art connectivity to the Cornell Tech campus on Roosevelt Island, where Johnson has built a strong presence. The Breazzano Family Center will also make it easier for students in all three Cornell College of Business schools in Ithaca – Dyson, Johnson and the Hotel School – to participate in activities at Cornell Tech.”
Johnson will lease the building from the developer and owner, 209-215 Dryden Road LLC, taking advantage of a creative financing structure that will provide Johnson with the space it needs to continue unabated on its growth trajectory. The building will be on the tax rolls and complement the city of Ithaca’s 2009 Collegetown Urban Plan.
Johnson is “clearly at an inflection point,” said Breazzano. “We have a lot of innovative, exciting initiatives happening in real time. Cornell Tech is transformative; it’s the integration of business acumen and technological innovation. It’s the future.” Breazzano believes the combination of schools in the Cornell College of Business will create a new set of synergies.
At the same time, he believes it’s up to Johnson alumni and the entire Johnson community to support the initiatives the school has undertaken.
“We have to run 110 percent in the right direction with the right support to make this all happen,” Breazzano said. “It’s important for all of us – for the pride of our school and for selfish reasons – to ensure that Cornell remains an elite business school. Because that enhances the value of our diploma, and we all want to be proud that we have a Cornell diploma.”
Janice Endresen, M.A. ’85, is an editor at the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management.