March 25, 2008

$50 Million Donation Aids C.U. Med School

Print More

A few months ago, the University’s “Far Above” capital campaign reached the $2 billion mark, but the money continues to pour in. Last month, the Weill Cornell Medical College and the New York-Presbyterian Hospital announced that they were splitting a $50 million gift from Ronald O. Perelman, chairman of MacAndrews & Forbes Holdings Inc., to establish the Ronald O. Perelman Heart Institute, and to support the newly named Ronald O. Perelman and Claudia Cohen Center for Reproductive Medicine.
“[The gift] illustrates the support for the medical school and the hospital, and how closely they are tied and interdependent,” Dr. Antonio Gotto, dean of WCMC, said. “A gift towards one helps the other, and vice versa, although they have their separate needs and agendas.”
While Gotto acknowledged that a gift to the hospital equally helped the college, he was most looking forward to the direct impact that the gift of $25 million would have on WCMC: “We are very proud of our assisted reproduction program. I believe it is the top in the world. 10,000 babies have been born as a result of this program. They do extraordinary clinical work and research, and it is headed aptly by Dr. Zev Rosenwaks. I am looking forward to what they can accomplish,” Gotto said.
Like Perelman’s gift, all the gifts made to the capital campaign contribute to one of Cornell’s goals to be completed by the time it celebrates its 150-year anniversary in 2015. According to the website for the capital campaign, these goals include: to be the best research university for undergraduate education, to set the standard for interdisciplinary collaboration in areas of critical social importance and to make Cornell’s public mission a model for higher education.
Laura Toy, associate vice president for the campaign, said, “It is a very ambitious goal, but we have our sights on hitting that goal, and hitting it before Dec 31, 2011 … I think that we are very pleased. Cornell alumni, parents and friends are remarkable in their generosity. When you look at dollars raised, there are very few schools that have as ambitious goals as we do, there have only been three other schools to raise $2 billion in less than four years: Stanford, Columbia and Yale.”
However, the campaign is not waiting to hit the $4 billion goal to spend the money they have already raised for faculty projects, endowing faculty positions and spending over $80 million on student financial aid.
The money raised by the capital campaign is also important to increasing the University’s endowment.
“Gifts to endowment often provide direct relief to the University’s operating budget, and they help to strengthen and to build existing programs and, at times, create new ones,” said Campaign Director James Mazza.
Mazza also described how a potential donor can benefit by giving directly to the endowment: “These gifts provide support to the designated area in perpetuity. Understandably, these individuals like the idea of having a legacy at Cornell that will exist well beyond their lifetimes. Individual endowments can be named, and many donors choose to honor family members, a faculty member or others who influenced their lives.”
However, as fundraising becomes more intense, concerns arise from potential donors over why Cornell needs more money, considering its large existing endowment. Thus, the campaign has asked potential donors to look at Cornell’s endowment as compared to other Ivy League Schools.
“Cornell does have a large endowment from a dollar standpoint, but at a dollar per student [standpoint], it is low compared to [Cornell’s] peers. [Cornell] has a large student body so the denominator is a lot larger,” said Toy.
Toy went on to describe the actual endowment dollar per student, “If we look at endowment per student, in the fiscal year 2006, [Cornell] was 17th. [Cornell] was behind all of the other Ivies, at $222,000 per student. Princeton is at $1.9 million per student.”
However, the need for donations will not end when the campaign’s goals have been reached.
Upon meeting the $4 billion mark by the end of 2011, Toy said, “[The Campaign’s Directors] will celebrate, but there will continue to be needs. Students will continue to have needs in access to Cornell, some of our deans will have proposed new facilities or renovations, so we will take a deep breath, and continue to raise funds for Cornell.”