John Doerr Gifts $1.1B to Launch Stanford Climate School

Arun Majumdar, who has advised the Obama and Biden administrations on energy issues, has been named the inaugural dean of the school.
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  • The gift will help establish the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.
  • It is Stanford's first new school in 70 years.
  • All Stanford students will have access to the school's curriculum, training, and more.

One of the largest gifts in higher education history will help launch a new school at Stanford University focused on the climate crisis.

The university last week announced combined gifts totaling $1.69 billion. This includes a $1.1 billion gift from billionaire venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann, to establish the Stanford Doerr School of Sustainability.

The School of Sustainability is Stanford's first new school in 70 years, according to the university. It will offer students the opportunity to focus their studies on:

  • Climate change
  • Earth and planetary sciences
  • Energy technology
  • Sustainable cities
  • The natural environment
  • Food and water security
  • Human society and behavior
  • Human health and the environment

Stanford will establish a three-part structure for the school that will include academic departments, interdisciplinary institutes, and an accelerator for technology and policy solutions, according to a press release from the university.

"These gifts will help Stanford bring its full effort to bear on solving the most complex problems in climate and sustainability, and on training the next generation of students who are eager and driven to address these challenges," Stanford President Marc Tessier-Lavigne said in a statement.

In a Tweet announcing his donation, Doerr said the new school was the result of "visionary thinking about the role of the university and our shared ambition to make a measurable impact on the climate crisis."

"We are deeply energized by the thousands of passionate students who will change the world as entrepreneurs, innovators, and stewards of our planet," he said.

Arun Majumdar will be the inaugural dean of the Sustainability School, Stanford said in a separate announcement. Majumdar, who joined Stanford in 2014, is the Jay Precourt Professor, professor of mechanical engineering, senior fellow, and former co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy. Majumdar has also advised the Obama and Biden administrations on energy issues, serving as the acting undersecretary of energy from March 2011 to June 2012.

Under his leadership, the new School of Sustainability will partner with external organizations around the world to develop innovative solutions to the climate crisis, Majumdar said in a statement.

"As is often said, we do not inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children. We must ... create a future in which humans and nature thrive together," he said.

Some 90 Stanford faculty members, including employees from the Stanford School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, will launch the school. Plans call for adding an additional 60 faculty members over the next decade. Likewise, other Stanford entities, such as the Woods Institute for the Environment and the Precourt Institute for Energy, will become part of the school.

Students across Stanford — regardless of their majors — will have access to the school's curriculum, training, and project-funding opportunities.

Doerr currently serves as chair of Kleiner Perkins — a venture capital firm — and authored the books "Measure What Matters" and "Speed and Scale: An Action Plan for Solving Our Climate Crisis Now." Ann Doerr serves as a trustee of Rice University and is chair of Khan Academy — a nonprofit education organization.