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posted 05/21/04

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$15 Million Gift to Columbia University Ties Economics to the Environment

New York, NY, May 21, 2004 -- In a letter to the Columbia University community, President Lee C. Bollinger announced a gift of $15 million from University Trustee Gerry Lenfest (Law '58) to The Earth Institute at Columbia. Provided through the Lenfest Foundation, the gift will endow the first Earth Institute professorship, promote sustainable development, and advance solutions to two of the most pressing problems of our time: global climate change and acute global poverty.

"These are urgent issues, and the world's leading scientists and experts will be drawn together by the Earth Institute to find practical solutions," Lenfest said. "Our Foundation is delighted to join in a partnership with Columbia University 's Earth Institute that will have a tangible impact and bring distinction to Columbia as a global university."

A prior $15-million gift from Lenfest, a 1958 graduate of Columbia Law School , allowed the Law School to open a new student residence in 2002.

President Bollinger said, "Gerry Lenfest's extraordinary new gift addresses two of his personal priorities that also are of great significance to the University: strengthening top centers of research and making a difference in the world today. To that end, Columbia and its world-renowned Earth Institute are uniquely positioned to wed science and public policy to solve some of the world's most complex and daunting environmental problems."

"With the Lenfest Foundation as a strong and generous partner, the Earth Institute aspires to provide practical and timely answers to some of the world's most pressing problems." Earth Institute director, Jeffrey Sachs, commented. "Our scientific base is very strong, our network is wide and deep throughout the world, and our New York base is ideal for global consensus building. We are grateful to Gerry Lenfest for his remarkable support."

Along with endowing an Earth Institute professorship, which strengthens interdisciplinary efforts in climate, energy, and economics, the gift will fund efforts to build a global consensus on responses to long-term climate change as well as furthering a Millennium Villages program dedicated to pursuing the U.N. Millennium Development Goals (Sachs is Special Advisor on the Goals to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan) by applying new technologies to overcome rural poverty in Africa.

In light of the magnitude and urgency of the issues, Lenfest's gift may serve as an example.

"Given the potential for Columbia, The Earth Institute, and its many partners around the world to make a difference," Lenfest said, "I hope others seize this opportunity to make our planet a healthier, more sustainable place for future generations."

The Earth Institute at Columbia University brings together talent from throughout the University to address complex issues facing the planet and its inhabitants, with particular focus on sustainable development and the needs of the world's poor. The Earth Institute is motivated by the belief that science and technological tools already exist, and could be expanded, to greatly improve conditions for the world's poor while preserving the natural systems that support life on Earth.

Columbia University at 250
Columbia University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of New York and the fifth oldest in the United States. It was founded in 1754 as King’s College by royal charter of King George II of England. The University’s 250th Anniversary Celebration began in October 2003 and continues through October 2004. The celebration features a host of academic and celebratory events that highlight the ways in which Columbia University is a vibrant intellectual and social community fostering ideas and educating people who make a difference in the world. For information on upcoming Columbia 250 events, visit

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.