Announcing the Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative
March 20, 2006
To the Columbia Community,
I am writing to inform you of a transformative development for the sciences – indeed, for all areas of learning – at Columbia. This morning, I announced plans to establish The Jerome L. Greene Science Center at a special event attended by Dawn M. Greene, Columbia President Emeritus Michael Sovern, Congressman Charles B. Rangel, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, and members of the Columbia community. Building on the University’s existing strengths in the neurosciences, the Center will be among the world’s most advanced facilities specializing in the study of the brain and will house the new Columbia Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative. The creation of the Center is made possible by a donation of more than $200 million from Dawn M. Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation in honor of her late husband Jerry Greene (CC ’26, Law ’28).
It is with a profound sense of gratitude and appreciation that Columbia University accepts this most generous, and generative, gift from Dawn Greene and the Foundation in honor of Jerry – the largest gift ever received by Columbia and, indeed, the largest ever received by any U.S. university for the development of a single facility. The Jerome L. Greene Science Center, on our proposed Manhattanville campus, will forever symbolize our ongoing effort to understand the human organism. It will also, in very practical ways, lead to cures for diseases and a deeper grasp of our behavior as individuals and societies. In so doing,
The Jerome L. Greene Science Center will carry on the legacy of a great Columbian.
Let me begin with some words about Jerry and then Dawn. Jerry was a prominent member of the New York community, who was distinguished by his many accomplishments as a lawyer, real estate investor, and philanthropist and humanitarian. He credited Columbia with providing him “the greatest learning experience of his life.” He gave back to his alma mater many times over, passionately supporting Columbia in so many ways that it is difficult to appreciate all of them fully. He served on the Board of Visitors of Columbia College and as director of the Alumni Association of the Columbia Law School. His counsel guided several generations of Law School deans and University presidents, and his gifts in support of legal and undergraduate education at Columbia funded building projects, fortified financial aid, and initiated and strengthened key academic programs.
Jerry left an indelible mark on Columbia, through both his active personal involvement and his exceeding generosity. The ubiquity of the Greene name on our campuses speaks to Jerry’s legacy.
The Greenes have contributed approximately $40 million to the Law School and across the University prior to this most recent gift. Dawn, as President and CEO of the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, has carried on their philanthropic work since Jerry’s passing in 1999. The Foundation’s contributions include the renovation and enhancement of Jerome L. Greene Hall at the Law School, the endowment of the Jerome L. Greene Professorship in Transactional Law and the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Professorship in Epidemiology, and the creation of The Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Infectious Disease Laboratory at the Mailman School of Public Health, which conducts research on infectious disease and investigates links between infection and a wide range of chronic diseases. Dawn also has served as a close friend and counsel to many of us at Columbia. We are very grateful for this.
Jerry and Dawn’s involvement and generosity have had an enormous impact not only on Columbia, but on other prominent New York institutions and on the culture and welfare of the entire City. Jerry served as a trustee of the Juilliard School and WNET/Channel Thirteen. He underwrote the annual Mostly Mozart Festival and programs at the Vivian Beaumont Theater at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. Jerry and Dawn’s gifts built both the Jerome L. and Dawn Greene Medical Arts Pavilion and the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore Medical Center.
The Jerome L. Greene Science Center will stand as a fitting tribute to a person of unmatched stature in the Columbia community and in New York City. This state-of-the-art facility will be the world’s preeminent center for education and research in the neurosciences and will house many of the most prominent faculty in the field. As home to Columbia’s Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative, the Center will seek to illuminate the brain and mind, with the ultimate goal of decoding their mysteries, curing the diseases that impair their functioning, and unlocking still more of their untold potential.
Columbia long has been recognized as a leader in neuroscience and a center of excellence in neurology and the related sciences more broadly. Combining world-leading research and clinical capabilities, Columbia’s activities include translating fundamental discoveries into new therapies for some of the most intractable neurological diseases and psychiatric disorders.
Columbia scientists and researchers, most notably renowned neurobiologist Dr. Thomas Jessell, Nobel laureates Dr. Richard Axel and Dr. Eric Kandel, and distinguished neuroscientist and executive vice president for Health and Biomedical Sciences and dean of the Faculty of Medicine Dr. Gerald Fischbach, have made seminal contributions to the neurosciences and continue to be at the forefront of discovery. Under the leadership of Drs. Jessell, Axel, and Kandel, The Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative will reinforce and expand Columbia’s role as an international leader in neuroscience education and research, bringing together the greatest minds and using the latest technology and scientific methods.
Scientists working at the Center will explore the causal relationship between gene function, brain wiring, and behavior. They will aim to clarify the workings of the mind – the mental processes that permit us to perceive, act, learn, and remember, and that govern the remarkable individuality of human action. The research they conduct will have profound implications for the treatment of brain illness. It will probe the root causes of neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and motor neuron diseases, among others , and it will seek to decode disorders of mood and motivation, cognition, and behavior. The Center also will establish an educational outreach facility and clinical programs with a focus on childhood developmental disorders and diseases of the aging brain.
The Center also will explore the gaps in our knowledge between the functioning of the brain and mind at the genetic and molecular level, and human behavior as studied at the level of the social sciences, the professions, and the arts and humanities. This will involve creating opportunities to find linkages among virtually all disciplines, since, at a profound level, we all study how the mind works.
The arts and the humanities, for instance, have shed much light on the human condition and the life of the mind, and how we perceive and respond to the world through art and other forms of expression. For example, Fred Lerdahl, Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition, recently has been honored for his work on the origins and evolution of language, which bridges the boundaries between mind, brain, and behavior studies and music. This Friday, March 24, the first Columbia Forum on Art and the New Biology of the Mind will convene Columbia neuroscientists, artists, art historians, and philosophers. David Freedberg, professor in the Art History and Archeology Department and director of The Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, is organizing this forum with Dr. Axel and Dr. Kandel. Professor Freedberg’s area of specialty is art and the neurosciences, and he is best known for his work on psychological responses to art.
Subject to completion of the appropriate public processes, we envision the Center being located in Manhattanville in West Harlem in close proximity to both the Morningside Heights and the Medical Center campuses. This would provide an ideal platform for the convergence of diverse areas of study and for collaboration across the University among faculty, researchers, clinicians, graduates, and undergraduates. The Center also would be situated close to the new public secondary school specializing in science, math, and engineering that Columbia is working with the City to establish, which would allow for new knowledge to be imparted to the school’s teachers and students.
Throughout history, the quest to understand the human brain, the construct of the mind, and their relationship to human behavior has been central to the work of universities. Thanks to the great generosity of Dawn Greene and the Jerome L. Greene Foundation, The Jerome L. Greene Science Center and the Columbia Mind, Brain, and Behavior Initiative will carry that work forward, heralding a new age of knowledge and discovery. The planning for the Center and the Initiative is still in its infancy. I look forward to providing additional updates as we continue to make progress in its development.
Lee C. Bollinger