Announced at the university's annual Alexander Hamilton Dinner, at which Yancopoulos received the Alexander Hamilton Medal for distinguished service to the college, the gift will establish an institute focused on the idea of fostering a "beginner's mind" — the Buddhist concept of avoiding stereotypes or preconceived ideas. Prior to the pledge announcement, which had not been shared with administrators ahead of the event, the dinner had generated $2.35 million in support of the college, including $1.35 million from Yancopoulos for students engaged in scientific research. The co-founder of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals, Yancopoulos established the Yancopoulos Family Science Fellowship for Columbia College students in 2013.
"We need to have a beginner's mind whenever we meet others, regardless of race, sex, color, or beliefs," said Yancopolous. "We need to also have a beginner's mind when we try to scientifically address existential threats like climate change and our healthcare problems."