Philanthropists and entrepreneurs Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, will be making an unprecedented $750 million donation to Caltech to support advanced research for the "most pressing challenges" in energy and sustainability.
The commitment is the largest ever for environmental sustainability research, the largest in Caltech's history, and the second-largest gift to a U.S. academic institution, according to a Caltech statement.
According to Caltech President Thomas F. Rosenbaum, this "transformative" pledge will "permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change — among the most critical challenges of our times."
To enhance the current curriculum, the new Resnick Center will include state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching labs that every first-year student will rotate through in conjunction with redesigned core educational courses that incorporate sustainability science and engineering, according to the statement.
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"Sustainability is the challenge of our times,'' said Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum. "Stewart and Lynda Resnick's generosity and vision will permit Caltech to tackle issues of water, energy, food, and waste in a world confronting rapid climate change."
Steven Chu, co-winner of the 1997 Nobel Prize in Physics and former Secretary of Energy under President Barack Obama, said that "the risks we face due to climate change present daunting challenges. The discoveries, inventions and innovations that will be spanned by this incredible gift will be transformative.
"The generosity of Lynda and Stewart Resnick is a lasting commitment for the future well-being of our children, our grandchildren, and our planet."
In recognition of the investment, Caltech will construct a new 75,000-square-foot building, to be named the Resnick Sustainability Resource Center. The center, which will serve as the hub for energy and sustainability research on campus as well as the home of state-of-the-art undergraduate teaching laboratories, will amplify and expand the work of the Resnick Sustainability Institute.
The RSI was established at Caltech a decade ago with a $30 million contribution from the Resnicks and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation. An additional pledge by the Resnicks in 2014 created both the Resnick Institute Innovation Fund, which provides support for new ideas in clean-energy and sustainability science that have the potential for rapid impact, and the Lynda and Stewart Resnick Matching Program, which provides a one-to-one match for contributions that create new endowed funds within the RSI.
"The Resnick Sustainability Institute will now be able to mount efforts at scale, letting researchers across campus follow their imaginations and translate fundamental discovery into technologies that dramatically advance solutions to society's most pressing problems," Rosenbaum said.