February 22, 2002

Alumni Couple Donates $15 Million to W. Campus

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Almost a year after its completion, the North Campus dining hall and recreation center, known as Community Commons, will be officially renamed. Following a contribution of $15 million dollars towards the completion of the University’s West Campus Residential Initiative, President Hunter R. Rawlings III announced on Jan. 23 that North Campus’s Community Commons will be named after the donors, Robert Appel ’53 and Helen Appel ’55.

Appel explained his renewed interest in campus life. “We visited Willard Straight and were impressed by the social environment, that we wanted to see more of that in campus life,” Mr. Appel said.

His decision to support residential life was in part because of the success he saw in the North Campus project. The project mirrors the social atmosphere of the Straight, according to Mr. Appel.

“We saw the plans for West Campus and decided that there is where our money should go.”

Despite the appropriation of the Appel donation for the West Campus Initiative, the naming of the future West Campus dormitories will purposely not involve the Appels, according to Vice Provost Isaac Kramnick, the R.J. Schwartz professor of government and head of the initiative. Instead, each of the dormitories will be named after distinguished deceased Cornell faculty.

The completed projects on North Campus — the Mews and Court dormitories — which are named after geographic descriptions, provide opportunities for generous and distinguished contributors to have their names on them, according to Kramnick.

Mr. Appel responded to the renaming by saying that he is “very proud and feels quite honored.”

The Appels have been active participants in undergraduate issues at Cornell. Their contributions to academic scholarship include such endowments as the Robert J. Appel Professorship in Molecular and Cell Biology, the Robert J. Appel Cornell Tradition Fellowship, and the Robinson-Appel Humanitarian Awards, which honor students who have demonstrated outstanding humanitarian values.

Appel is an alumnus of the College of Arts in Sciences and a former member of Neuberger Berman, an investment and securities brokerage firm in New York City. He is also a trustee of the Leavitt Foundation, a trustee of Beth Israel Hospital and a director of the 92nd street YMHA in New York City.

Appel’s wife Helen is also a graduate of the College of Arts and Sciences. She teaches World and American history in an adult-education program at Cumberland School in Great Neck, N.Y., school system. She also serves on the board of Parker Geriatric Institute.

Mr. Appel added that he and his wife are “planning one more major gift” to the University.

Archived article by David Andrade