Columbia University

Communications and Calendars

Letters to the Faculty:

September 21, 2006

Dear Colleagues,

I’d like to welcome you all back to Columbia after what I hope was a relaxing and productive summer.  As the new year begins, we are also beginning our most ambitious fundraising campaign to date. I have spent much of the past year preparing for the capital campaign, working in close collaboration with President Bollinger, Provost Brinkley and Susan Feagin, Executive Vice President for University Development and Alumni Relations, to position the Arts and Sciences centrally for the upcoming campaign. The goal for the University will be $4 billion, while the goal for Arts and Sciences is an impressive $1 billion. The two main pillars of the campaign are to support faculty growth with endowed chairs and to endow financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students alike, in all Arts and Sciences departments and schools.

We have begun our campaign with an enormous gift of breathtaking generosity.  Trustee Gerry Lenfest (’58 Law) last year gave us $12 million for the Distinguished Faculty Awards (and before that provided an endowment of $5 million for Arts and Sciences chairs in collaboration with the Earth Institute). He has now pledged $37.5 million in matching funds to establish endowed chairs in the Arts and Sciences. Gerry’s support of teaching and learning at Columbia is extraordinary. His gift provides the major cornerstone of the Arts and Sciences campaign in the area of faculty development, providing matching funds for endowed chairs in fields where our teaching needs are paramount. This gift will allow us to add to the excellence of our faculty, providing opportunities across the disciplines as well as in our core education programs for students to work more closely with faculty throughout their time at Columbia.

By establishing a match, Gerry hopes to encourage other donors to support faculty excellence at Columbia. Under the terms of the gift, which provide a one-to-one match, other donors can establish a chair in the Arts and Sciences with a gift of only $1.5 million, half the cost of endowing a professorship. We are already working to increase the base of matching funds provided by Gerry, with the hope of doubling the amount so that we will be able to make quick progress in establishing endowments for fifty new chairs in the Arts and Sciences. During the autumn, we will be working closely with various faculty committees to provide more details about how we are going to direct our fundraising efforts to core academic needs across the departments of the Arts and Sciences.

Our efforts in the campaign continue. We have met with a committee commissioned by the Board of Visitors of the College to work together as they plan their own participation, with the hopes of making significant progress in continuing the momentum to endow numerous chairs in the Arts and Sciences. ECFAS has played an important role, too, constituting a fundraising committee – chaired by Hilary Ballon and Stuart Firestein – that has already been planning a set of faculty-led events to showcase areas of strength in teaching and research for targeted prospective donors and supporters. 

One of the key events planned by the fundraising committee is a series of symposia for the express purpose of prospect/donor engagement. The first symposium will feature the natural sciences at Columbia, the second will focus on America, followed by a third symposium still in the early planning stages. The natural sciences symposium, “Playground of the Mind,” is being organized by David Helfand and Cookie Neil, and will be held September 28-29. Among the many activities planned, participants will have a choice of three field trips, CUMC fMRI Research Center, cutting-edge science labs on the Morningside campus, and Central Park. In addition, Columbia has been hosting Café Science, which introduces one of Columbia’s science faculty at each of its publicly held events. 

I look forward to working with you all this year so that we can continue the success of this first phase as we launch the campaign officially on September 29. In the meantime, I’ll be sending another letter soon with a more complete update of activities in the Arts and Sciences over the last year and plans for the new academic year.

With my best wishes,

Nicholas B. Dirks
Franz Boas Professor of Anthropology and History
Vice President for Arts and Sciences
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences