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Stanford Receives $1.1 Billion Gift, Creates Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability

May 5, 2022

John Doerr, a successful venture capitalist in Silicon Valley, and his wife Ann, have donated $1.1 billion to Stanford University, the largest donation in the university’s history and second largest to any university, according to Forbes and The Chronicle of Higher Education. This gift, in addition to $590 million from other donors, will fund the first new school founded at Stanford in 70 years, the Doerr School of Sustainability, set to open this fall.

David Gelles of The New York Times reports that Doerr was “first inspired to address climate change in 2006, after he watched Al Gore’s film ‘An Inconvenient Truth,’ with this family.” Doerr was joined by Gore in his venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins. Derek Saul of Forbes reports that Doerr has recently published a book describing his ideas on how to end climate change. Doerr told Forbes last year that “he believes the earth ‘is on the brink of disaster’ due to global warming and said figuring out how to stop climate change represents the ‘greatest economic opportunity of our lifetimes.’”

The Doerr School of Sustainability will be “focused on cultivating deep knowledge and high-impact solutions to pressing planetary challenges,” according to a Stanford news release written by Amy Adams and Anneke Cole. Adams and Cole report that the school will house eight areas of scholarship: “climate change, Earth and planetary sciences, energy technology, sustainable cities, the natural environment, food and water security, human society and behavior, and human health and the environment.” The school plans to broadly focus on Earth, Climate, and Society. Additionally, the school will include interdisciplinary institutes and the Sustainability Accelerator for “technology and policy solutions.”

Further, the school plans to “increase financial support for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows– tomorrow’s leading climate and sustainability scientists, entrepreneurs, policymakers, and advocates.” Adams and Cole go on to report that the school is prioritizing hiring new faculty, “expand[ing] from about 90 faculty members in the founding units of the school to 150 faculty members in 10 years.”

Professor Arun Majumdar will be the school’s inaugural dean. As reported by David Gelles in The New York Times, Majumdar has “advised the Obama and Biden administrations on energy issues, said the school would provide context and analysis around climate change issues, but would stop short of advocacy.”

Gelles explains that other universities, including Columbia University, are creating schools focused on climate change but Stanford’s will be “among the largest and best funded.” He quotes Doerr as saying that he “hoped that [his] gift would inspire other wealthy individuals to spend their fortunes combating climate change.”

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