The California Institute of Technology has announced a $750 million gift from Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of The Wonderful Company, in support of environmental sustainability research.
The gift will support four core research initiatives: building smarter electricity infrastructure and converting solar power into fuels and other chemicals; advancing climate science measurement and modeling efforts focused on identifying the largest effects of climate change as well as mitigation and adaptation efforts designed to offset the impact of continuing carbon emissions; ensuring that water resources are managed more effectively through the mapping and monitoring of surface and sub-surface water, as well as improvements in water treatment and reuse; and global ecology and biosphere engineering, with a focus on mapping the response of the biosphere to climate change, engineering microbes that can help plants adapt to the changing climate, and using biological tools to improve water and nutrient use. The gift from the couple is believed to be the second largest ever to a U.S. university, behind the $1.8 billion Michael R. Bloomberg gave to Johns Hopkins University in 2018.
According to the New York Times, $100 million of the gift will support construction of the 75,000-square-foot Resnick Sustainability Resource Center, which will serve as a hub for energy and sustainability research on the CalTech campus and amplify the work of the Resnick Sustainability Institute. Established a decade ago with $30 million from the Resnicks and the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, RSI received an additional $15 million from the Resnicks in 2014 to create the Resnick Institute Innovation Fund, which provides support for new ideas in clean-energy and sustainability science with the potential to create 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 institute.
"In order to comprehensively manage the climate crisis, we need breakthrough innovations, the kind that will only be possible through significant investment in university research," said Stewart Resnick, a senior member of the Caltech board of trustees. "Science and bold creativity must unite to address the most pressing challenges facing energy, water, and sustainability."
"It is essential to have hope," said RSI director and Bren Professor of Chemistry Jonas C. Peters. "More than anything, this commitment from Lynda and Stewart places hope in science and technology, and also in Caltech, to help chart a more sustainable future for all of us."