COVER STORY

Going Places

The Columbia Campaign sets an Ivy League record, allowing the University to break new ground.

Published Spring 2014
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New Columbia facilities include the Campbell Sports Center, named in honor of University Trustee chair William V. Campbell ’62CC‚ ’64TC, which opened at the Baker Athletics Complex in Inwood last year. / Photograph by Jenica Miller

“There were many Columbia departments that couldn’t cover the basics of their disciplines,” Bollinger told Columbia Magazine (read the full interview here). “They needed to be bigger to become absolutely top departments. That’s why space and funding are two things I have focused on.”

The first large campaign-funded construction project was completed in 2007, when the Gary C. Comer Geochemistry Building opened at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, New York. In 2010, the Northwest Corner Building, a fourteen-story lab facility for chemists, physicists, biologists, and engineers, popped up on the last undeveloped plot on the Morningside campus, at the corner of Broadway and 120th Street. That same year, the University broke ground on the Jerome L. Greene Science Center, which is scheduled to be finished in 2016. The Lenfest Center for the Arts, an exhibition and performance space, will open in Manhattanville around the same time the Greene Science Center is complete, with a new home for the business school going up there two years later.

The Columbia University Medical Center is expanding, too. The new Medical and Graduate Education Building, for which the Vagelos family gave $50 million, will be the first major update of the medical center’s educational infrastructure in nearly fifty years when it opens in 2016. Lead gifts for the project also include $20 million from Philip Milstein ’71CC and his wife, Cheryl Milstein ’82BC; and $10 million from Clyde Wu ’56PS and his wife, Helen Wu. The Columbia School of Nursing is planning to build a new home at CUMC in the coming years, as well.

According to Bollinger, all that brick and mortar is essential to the University’s future, enabling its academic departments to scale up in size, solidifying their core strengths while branching off into new areas of specialization.

“We have to have growth as the institution evolves,” he said. “We need new buildings because we have to add faculty and students. That is the history of great institutions. As we generate more knowledge, that knowledge becomes more complex. We need to have more people contributing to these efforts and making use of the insights that result.”

Moving Forward

The Columbia Campaign may have officially concluded, but as the University’s programs expand and grow, so too will the need for philanthropic support.

One critical measure of the University’s financial situation is the size of its endowment. Columbia’s endowment, despite having grown significantly since the start of the campaign, to its current value of about $8.2 billion, is still much smaller than those of its peers: Harvard has an endowment of $32 billion, Yale $21 billion, Stanford $19 billion, and Princeton $18 billion. Consequently, these institutions can draw much larger payouts from their endowments than Columbia can each year. Since Columbia is competing with these institutions for the best faculty and students, raising money for the University’s endowment remains a key priority.

Over the next few decades, the University expects to build more facilities in Manhattanville. And emerging academic strengths in areas such as data science — embodied by the establishment of the Institute for Data Sciences and Engineering two years ago — point toward a future when increasing numbers of Columbia scholars become involved in novel interdisciplinary projects. Bollinger’s office recently launched a presidential task force to develop Columbia’s research programs in personalized medicine, for instance. This may spawn new collaborations among geneticists, physicians, data scientists, statisticians, and experts in many other fields.

“There are even more big ideas being contemplated now than at the start of the campaign,” says Van Sickle. “While there is not a new campaign on the horizon, everybody is committed to maintaining the momentum we have. That goes for our alumni-relations efforts as well as for our fundraising. I would expect to see an ongoing trajectory of more and more engagement and outreach to alumni.”

George Van Amson ’74CC, a Trustee emeritus who now serves as chair of the Columbia Alumni Association, guarantees this will be the case.

“Whether alumni are interested in the arts, lifelong learning, career networking, sports events, or lectures and panels, they’re only going to get more of these opportunities from Columbia in the future,” he says. “People in leadership positions at the University over the past few years have recognized that alumni are among the most important stakeholders in this whole enterprise. They’ve recognized that alumni were yearning for this kind of engagement — that they wanted to visit campus, to stay informed about what’s happening at Columbia, and to build a sense of community among themselves. This has put a lot of wind in Columbia’s sails. Everyone is serious about keeping that going.”

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