Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, has received a pledge of $360 million from an anonymous donor -- believed to be the largest single gift ever made to a public or private university in the United States.
In an extraordinary demonstration of support, the donor tripled the size of the original $130 million pledge made in December and gave Rensselaer officials complete discretion in how the new gift will be used. The original pledge had been earmarked for the construction of two major facilities, the Center for Biotechnology and Interdisciplinary Studies and the Electronic Media and Performing Arts Center.
Campus officials said the gift should help them begin to realize the strategic plan developed under their new president, Shirley Ann Jackson, to move the university into the front ranks of engineering and technology institutions.
"Biotechnology and information technology already have exerted a transformational impact on society," said Jackson. "The even more dramatic advances that lie ahead will revolutionize the practice of medicine, extend the human life span, and shrink our world through ubiquitous, tetherless communications. This extraordinary gift will enable Rensselaer to play a leading role in enabling society to reap the still unimagined benefits of these exciting technologies."
Rensselaer officials have chosen four areas in which to build new programs in biotechnology: functional tissue engineering, integrative systems biology, biocomputation and bioinformatics, and biotcatalysis and metabolic engineering.