Stanford University announced Wednesday it is launching a new school later this year focused on climate change and funded by John Doerr, a renowned Silicon Valley venture capitalist.
Doerr and his wife donated $1.1 billion to fund the initiative – the largest gift ever given to a university for establishing a new school, according to the New York Times.
The university’s first new school in 70 years will be known as the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability, and is set to officially launch on September 1. Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne wrote in a message to the university that the school will focus on three broad, but critical areas: earth, climate and society.
“The new school will build fundamental knowledge of the Earth and its systems, accelerate the development of solutions to the climate crisis at the scale that is needed, and educate tomorrow’s problem solvers and change makers in this urgent area,” he wrote.
It’s also the second-largest donation to an academic institution, according to the Chronicle of Higher Education, with Michael Bloomberg’s 2018 donation of $1.8 billion to Johns Hopkins University ranking first.
The total funding for the initiative, including the Doerrs’ donation and other contributions, is $1.6 billion.
Tessier-Lavigne wrote that Arun Majumdar was chosen as the school’s inaugural dean – “an internationally recognized expert in sustainable energy solutions and policy.”
In 2009, Majumdar served under the Obama administration as the founding director of the government agency in charge of researching energy innovations. He also serves as the chair of the advisory board for US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.
“The Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability will not only harness the intellectual horsepower of our students, faculty, and staff across our campus, but also partner with external organizations around the world to co-develop innovative solutions and identify new insights through research and education,” Majumdar said in a news release.
“As is often said, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors, we borrow it from our children. We must create a future in which humans and nature thrive together,” the new dean added.
The new school is designed to focus on various topics related to the climate crisis and its solutions, including earth and planetary sciences, energy technology, food and water security and human health.
The university’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, also known as Stanford Earth, will transition to the new school along with current faculty members. Stanford also plans to invest in around 60 more faculty members over the next 10 years, with early hires focusing on energy, climate science, and environmental justice, the release noted.
The launch comes at a time when the university’s home state of California continues to be plagued with climate change-fueled disasters including a historic drought, ongoing water crisis, weather swings from hot to cold extremes, and landscape-altering wildfires.