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Where Else But Cornell?

It's fitting that the day after a non-scandal about Cornell's senior class campaign broke, the University announced its largest gift ever: $80MM to permanently endow Cornell's Center for a Sustainable Future:

"My wife and I have made a commitment to make the center a permanent, integral part of Cornell," Atkinson, who earlier provided $3 million to the pilot program, said in a telephone interview. :Sustainability issues will be of increased concern with the passage of time, and Cornell is the best university to tackle these issues.:

Atkinson's remarks actually echo something that I said a year and a half ago, when Anne Coulter was deriding Keith Olbermann for his Ag School roots:

The failure to recognize the importance of Cornell’s public mission – and its myriad contributions to global nutrition, third-world development, labor standards, human development, and the like – speaks to just how backwards we have become as a society.

So the gift ends up putting Cornell in the same sustainability conversation as Columbia's Earth Institute, except for the fact that, you know, we happen to have a strong history in agricultural science and education, which is kind of important if you want to deal with the issue of sustainability.

It's also interesting to point out how the Center is arranged, structurally, within the larger university community. It reports not to any one college or dean, but sits atop all of the University's units, drawing faculty from the natural and physical sciences, engineering, and the social sciences. And while there's currently no minor or major in strict 'sustainability' don't be surprised to see an undergraduate concentration in the field created in the future.

Additionally, the $80MM investment means that even more money, in the form of grants and other outside support, will be leveraged by the institute. In 2009 it had a budget of $1.6MM that reaped over $40 MM in additional research grants.

And of course, the potential to leave a clean, well-functioning planet to our children and our children's children is priceless.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on October 28, 2010 (#)

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