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$300M Cornell Tech Gift Energizes B-Schools' Silicon Valley Reboot

Tech focused business school gets $300M donation from Michael Bloomberg. Cash will help construct innovative New York campus.

Wed Jun 17 2015

The $2 billion tech-focused business school Cornell Tech has received a $100 million donation from Bloomberg Philanthropies to fund the construction of its New York campus.

Cornell University and its academic partner the Israel Institute of Technology beat Stanford University three years ago in the bid to establish a campus on Roosevelt Island.

The Bloomberg gift brings the philanthropic total for Cornell Tech to $685 million, including a $350 million donation from Charles Feeney, a Cornell alumnus who minted a fortune in duty-free stores.

Cornell Tech is billed as a revolutionary model for graduate tech education, developing pioneering leaders and technologies for the digital age. The Tuesday announcement of the donation marks a milestone, with the first phase of the campus due to open in 2017.

When fully completed, the campus will span 12 acres on Roosevelt Island and house approximately 2,000 students and hundreds of faculty and staff.

Business schools have been adopting Silicon Valley style learning techniques, adapting their teaching models to focus more on a fusion of tech and management, and entrepreneurship. Cornell Tech is a leader in this pivot, a complement to Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management. Similar moves have been made by Stanford, UCLA Anderson and Texas’ McCombs.

“At Cornell Tech we are creating a high-tech entrepreneurial hub for the benefit of the city, the state and the world,” said Cornell University President David Skorton on Tuesday. Almost one-third of Cornell Tech’s nearly 100 alumni are pursuing their own ventures that were developed on a temporary campus.

These includes the winners of Cornell Tech’s Start-up Awards – five groups of students are working full-time on ventures built during their studies, with pre-seed funding from the Blackstone Foundation, the charitable foundation of the world’s biggest alternative asset manager, and free co-working space at the New York Times building.

David added that the university wants to “reinvent graduate education for the digital age and build a pipeline of tech talent”.

Robert Harrison, Cornell University board chair, described Cornell Tech as “revolutionary”.

Cornell and Technion’s winning of the bid saw it provided with land on Roosevelt Island and $100 million in New York City capital to build the $2 billion, 2 million sq ft campus.

“The new Roosevelt Island campus will bring together academia and industry in the service of invention and innovation – and the result will be hundreds of home-grown companies that provide a pathway to opportunity for thousands of New Yorkers,” said New York’s mayor Bill de Blasio.

Michael Bloomberg, former New York mayor and business magnate who spearheaded the idea, said that the project represents a challenge to Silicon Valley.

New York City Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito said Cornell Tech represents the new frontier in education for the next generation of leaders and problem-solvers.