June 8, 2010

Dyson family gift establishes Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management

One of Cornell's gems just became a little more visible. Cornell President David Skorton June 8 announced that a $25 million gift from the family of John Dyson '65 will establish a new school -- the Charles H. Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management -- in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS).

The school is named for Dyson's father to recognize his contributions to American business. The event took place in Mann Library on the Ithaca campus. A formal dedication is planned for this fall.

The gift is directed at the Department of Applied Economics and Management (AEM), one of only two Ivy League undergraduate business programs that consistently is ranked in the top 10 in its field.

"This truly extraordinary gift at an extraordinary time provides remarkable support for AEM ... at a critical time in the program's growth and development," Skorton said.

The Dyson family would like to see the university use the funds to hire the best faculty members possible -- and continue to give students on-the-ground training, Dyson said, noting that he has used the accounting that he learned at Cornell every day of his business life.

"Most business schools are too theoretical. ... They do not have the breadth of framing and grounding in reality that Cornell's applied economics and management program has had for its whole 100 years," said Dyson, former chairman of the New York Power Authority. "The uniqueness of this program is what we want to continue and accentuate. This is a broad education, not just a business education."

Charles Dyson, the son of immigrants, had to forego a scholarship to Columbia to help his family earn a living during the Great Depression, said his eldest son at the event. However, Charles went on to earn a college degree at night, serve in the military and work for the U.S. Department of the Treasury, where he helped organize the International Monetary Fund. He later co-founded Dyson-Kissner-Moran Corp., which became one of the largest privately held companies in the country and was a pioneer in the field of leveraged buyouts.

Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences, said, "Charles Dyson was a visionary and highly accomplished business leader. We are honored that Cornell's leading programs in applied economics and management will bear his name."

The endowment gift follows three decades of financial support from the Dyson family, beginning in 1962 with a $5,000 scholarship for undergraduate students.

John Dyson is the founder and chairman of Millbrook Capital Management, a private investment firm that operates a manufacturing company, a vineyard and wine group, and a hedge fund. As state commerce commissioner in the 1970s, he developed the "I Love New York" campaign; as New York City deputy mayor for finance and economic development, he helped lead the effort to rebuild the downtown in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center. He is an emeritus member of the Cornell Board of Trustees.

The other three Dyson siblings also have personal links to Cornell. The late Anne Dyson was a clinical assistant professor of pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College and a vice chair of its Board of Overseers. Robert Dyson, MBA '74, is an emeritus trustee and emeritus member of the Johnson School's Advisory Council, and president of the Dyson Foundation, which has made grants and pledges to Cornell in the past. Peter Dyson is a member of the Undergraduate Business Program Advisory Council. In addition, four of Charles Dyson's grandchildren are Cornell alumni, and three of them graduated from CALS.

"This kind of recognition and this kind of push will make the undergraduate business program even better than it already is. We are number five now," Dyson said of program's current ranking. "But I think it's only fair warning to numbers one, two, three and four to say that Cornell is rising."