June 13, 2007

Cornell announces $450 million in campaign gifts for medical college, life sciences and intercampus research

NEW YORK -- Weill Cornell Medical College's (WCMC) "Discoveries That Make a Difference" capital campaign reached the halfway point of its $1.3 billion goal with the announcement June 13 of $400 million in campaign gifts. An additional $50 million for life sciences research on the Ithaca campus was announced at the same time.

The largest portion of the gifts to Weill Cornell is $250 million from Joan and Sanford I. Weill, chairman of WCMC's Board of Overseers. Of that amount, $25 million will fund the Ithaca-based Joan and Sanford I. Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology and its interdisciplinary research collaborations between WCMC and Cornell in Ithaca. The Weills also are giving an additional $50 million to help fund the Life Sciences Technology Building, currently under construction on the Ithaca campus. In recognition of their generosity, the building will be named Weill Hall. Taken together, the $300 million from the Weills is the largest gift Cornell University has ever received.

Maurice R. Greenberg, a member of the Weill Cornell Board of Overseers and chairman and CEO of C.V. Starr and Co., his wife, Corinne, and the Starr Foundation are giving $50 million, it was also announced. Another $100 million is coming from an anonymous donor.

The gifts bring WCMC's campaign total to $650 million and Cornell's comprehensive campaign, "Far Above ...," to a total of $1.653 billion. Both campaigns were launched in October 2006.

"This campaign will have an impact on every aspect of our medical college," said Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., dean of WCMC. "Having raised half of $1.3 billion in eight months gives us a great deal to be proud of."

Gotto said a previous $1 billion campaign helped Weill Cornell to enhance its patient care and education programs around the world, and to triple its research space.

The gifts will fund translational (or "bench-to-bedside") and clinical research programs, collaborative research between Cornell in Ithaca and WCMC, state-of-the-art facilities including a proposed biomedical research building to be built on East 69th Street, student support including international scholarships, faculty and program support, and global collaborations and education from Qatar to Tanzania, Haiti and elsewhere.

"It's not just about money, it's about a passion and the brainpower to do something different," Sanford Weill said. "We really thought about going global before anyone else did, and now we have students on our campus in Qatar who are achieving grades as good as, or better than, our students in New York."

President David Skorton recalled the tradition of private philanthropy that started with the founding of Cornell, and said that research across the Ithaca campus, from veterinary medicine to nanobiotechnology, will benefit from the university's partnership with the medical college.

"The top-ranked programs at Weill Cornell Medical College serve as important complements to programs on our Ithaca campus," said Skorton, who also has faculty appointments in biomedical engineering in Ithaca and in cardiology at Weill Cornell.

That collaborative relationship "sets us apart from almost any other institution," said Peter Meinig, chairman of Cornell's board of trustees. Last month, Meinig and his wife, Nancy, announced their own $25 million gift to Cornell and the creation of the Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigatorships in the Life Sciences to recognize and support outstanding, innovative faculty life sciences research.

"What we can do in medical research can make a difference in this world," Weill said.

Skorton said that Gotto and Cornell Provost Biddy Martin previously developed a task force to identify and commit $600,000 in seed grants to four areas of collaborative research -- infectious diseases, cancer biology and molecular approaches, systems biology and biomedical engineering, and molecular therapeutics as defined by chemical biology.

"We've been able to get approximately $1.5 million in NIH (National Institutes of Health) support as a result of these seed grants," said David Hajjar, WCMC dean of graduate studies.