SEAS nets $50 million donation

John Malone’s $50 million donation to SEAS is the largest in the school’s history.
John Malone’s $50 million donation to SEAS is the largest in the school’s history. Photo by Creative Commons.

With a $50 million gift to the School of Engineering & Applied Science announced Thursday, University administrators say they now have the resources to put ambitious plans for the school into motion.

Donated by John Malone ’63, the gift is the largest in the engineering school’s history and will enable Yale to create 10 new endowed professorships across all engineering disciplines. Dean T. Kyle Vanderlick said that the donation will provide the school with what it needs most in order to improve — prestigious faculty.

“When you’re trying to grow a school, an academic unit, it’s about the faculty — that’s the engine,” Vanderlick said in an interview Thursday. “We’re so undersized relative to other schools of engineering, and that’s why this gift is important to us.”

The gift supports the hiring of new professors across the school’s four core departments — Biomedical Engineering, Chemical and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering and Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science — and interdisciplinary research centers. It also pays for two professorships with joint appointments in the School of Management. The engineering and applied science professors, who will be hired from within and beyond Yale’s faculty, will all be known as “Malone Professors,” which Vice President for Development Inge Reichenbach said will be similar to the Sterling professorship.

A native of Milford, Conn., Malone attended Hopkins Grammar School in New Haven before graduating from Yale with a degree in electrical engineering. After obtaining his Ph.D. in operations research from Johns Hopkins University, he entered the telecommunications business and has continued to invest in media companies to the present.

Malone has a history of support for Yale’s engineering programs: In 2000, he gave $24 million to construct the Daniel L. Malone Engineering Center, named for Malone’s father. The center opened in 2005 and houses the Department of Biomedical Engineering. At the time, it was the largest donation in the school’s history, University President Richard Levin said.

Now, Reichenbach said administrators hope to match the success of Malone’s previous gift.

“In 11 years, the Department of Biomedical Engineering has zoomed right into the top rankings of those programs in the country,” Reichenbach said. “With this stimulus we have the same high hopes for the School of Engineering & Applied Science as a whole.”

Reichenbach said Malone has given the University freedom to hire the new faculty members on its own schedule. Given that the University plans to seek top-caliber teachers using the donation, she added, it could take a few years before all 10 positions are filled.

The donation brings the University one step closer to reaching the $3.5 billion goal of its five-year comprehensive fundraising campaign, “Yale Tomorrow.” The last major gift was a $50 million donation to the School of Management in December, which named its new campus for donor Edward P. Evans ’64. Reichenbach said the University expects to announce other large gifts before the campaign ends June 30.

Levin, Reichenbach and Vanderlick all praised Malone’s benevolence and commitment to the University.

“Funds for named professorships are difficult to come by. [Named professorships are] expensive — and to be honest, buildings are easier to raise money for,” Vanderlick said. “It’s a very special, forward-looking, thoughtful form of philanthropy to invest in faculty because that’s what really drives the academic enterprise.”

Each endowed professorship costs $5 million, Levin said.

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