Alum donates $10 million to SAS
January 31, 2000, 5:00 am·
The money, given by College alumnus Christopher Browne, will endow five new professorships in SAS departments. Christopher Browne, chairman of the School of Arts and Sciences Board of Overseers and a 1969 College alumnus, will donate $10 million to endow five new professorships in SAS departments, University officials announced Friday. The donation is tied with five others for the largest contribution in SAS history and will provide financial backing for the school to increase the current 52 endowed chairs by 10 percent -- a goal outlined in last April's SAS Strategic Plan. The donation is unrestricted, meaning that the school can use it on whatever departments it wants. "It is a great step forward for us in our ability to attract and retain our most distinguished faculty members," SAS Dean Samuel Preston said. "These chairs? are extremely valuable because the dean can use them to identify the most strategically important areas." Over the next five years, one Browne Distinguished Professorship will be named in each of the three academic divisions of SAS -- the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences -- as well as two at-large chairs, which will be awarded to the most needy academic areas. Although Preston would not say which professors are likely candidates, the strategic plan calls for a more concentrated effort to recruit and retain top-rate professors in the English, Biology, Psychology, Political Science, History and Economics departments. Preston said endowed chairs serve both a symbolic and strategic purpose: they allow senior faculty members to be recognized for their work and also offer the University additional bargaining chips to retain leading faculty members who get offers to go elsewhere. "When Harvard comes along and offers a faculty member a chair, I am not in a position to respond effectively if we don't have one available," Preston said. In the past, SAS has typically been able to award just one endowed chair each year. With Browne's donation, that number will double for the next five years, Preston said. Although Browne had discussed making other significant donations when he met with University officials in December, he said he settled on endowing the new professorships as a way of showing his support for Preston's leadership and vision for SAS. "I didn't want a building. I wanted to have something with a long-term commitment to the School of Arts and Sciences," he explained. "Sam Preston has brought a new focus to SAS and this gift is a real boost to his efforts." Browne is managing director of the New York City-based investment management firm Tweedy, Browne and president of Tweedy, Browne mutual funds. Browne has made a number of other donations to the University and to SAS in particular. Most recently, he helped establish the Christopher H. Browne Center for International Politics in the Political Science Department. He has also made contributions to help fund construction of the new life sciences building and to support undergraduate scholarships. According to Browne, this donation takes a different slant toward endowed professorships by redefining the criteria for excellence and emphasizing graduate and undergraduate teaching. A committee of top administrators -- including Preston, University President Judith Rodin and College Dean Richard Beeman -- will nominate senior faculty members for the honor. According to SAS Vice Dean of External Affairs Jean-Marie Kneeley, Browne's $10 million donation is tied for the single largest contribution in the school's history. Last April, University Trustee Robert Fox pledged that amount to endow two Fox Leadership chairs as well as the Robert A. Fox Leadership Lecture Series. In 1997, a $10 million gift from former University Trustees Chairman Roy Vagelos and his wife, Diana, helped establish the undergraduate program in molecular biology that bears their name. Browne has had a longstanding commitment to service for the University. In addition to serving for almost 20 years on the SAS Board of Overseers, Browne has been a University Trustee since 1991, during which time he has worked on several campus-wide academic policy and budget initiatives. He is also president of The Penn Club of New York.