from the January 2012 issue

Cornell University received $350 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies and its Chairman Charles Feeney

Cornell University received $350 million from the Atlantic Philanthropies and its Chairman Charles Feeney to support a New York City engineering campus awarded to the university.

The donation, a record for the university, was announced Dec. 16 as an anonymous gift. The identity of the donor was announced late last night in a statement on Atlantic's website.

Cornell and its partner Technion-Israel Institute of Technology won a New York City contest to build an engineering campus with a grant of land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million for infrastructure improvements. The NYCTech Campus is intended to bolster job creation in the city and may generate 600 spinoff companies and $23 billion in economic activity over the next three decades, Mayor Michael Bloomberg said at a news conference.

Cornell, based in Ithaca, New York, and Haifa-based Technion beat out six competing bids, including one from Stanford University. Cornell announced the $350 million gift hours after Stanford said it was withdrawing from the contest.

"Of all the applications we received, Cornell and Technion's was the boldest and most ambitious," Bloomberg said. "In a word, this project will be transformative."

Feeney, 80, graduated Cornell in 1956 and co-founded Duty Free Shoppers, a retailing company. That company became the core of the Atlantic Philanthropies, Feeney's charity, which has made grants of more than $5.5 billion since 1984.

Technion, an 87-year-old Israeli science and engineering institution with almost 13,000 students, counts Albert Einstein as an early supporter. The scientist was president of the first Technion society, according to its website. Technion professor Dan Schechtman was awarded the Nobel Prize in chemistry on Dec. 10.

"We are not going to have an extension of the Technion or Cornell," said Technion President Peretz Lavie. "We are going to have something new."

An engineering campus in New York will help tie Cornell more closely to the city and provide a more viable location for companies that are spun out of the school, said Ronald Ehrenberg, an economics professor who directs the Cornell Higher Education Research Institute.

"The trustees and the president have long wanted to have a bigger presence in New York City," Ehrenberg said. "The notion that you can be a great international university in the 21st century if you're located in rural upstate New York doesn't work."

Cornell's endowment was valued at $5.3 billion as of June 30, according to the university.

Cornell counts among its alumni Sanford "Sandy" Weill, former chairman of Citigroup Inc. in New York; Abby Joseph Cohen, senior investment strategist at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York, and former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno.

Reprinted from the Israel High-Tech & Investment Report January 2012

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