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Atkinson Gift Advances Sustainability


An $80 million gift from David R. Atkinson ’60 and his wife, Patricia Atkinson, establishes a permanent center on campus to advance sustainability research and cultivate innovative collaborations, and positions the university to be a global leader in the effort to create a sustainable future.

The gift—the single largest to Cornell from an individual—builds on the success of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future (CCSF), which was created in 2007 with initial support from the Atkinsons and has been renamed the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.

The family’s support for CCSF has funded more than 40 teams of researchers from across campus since its inception. It currently engages 220 faculty members from 10 colleges and involves 55 departments in interdisciplinary research related to the environment, energy, and economic development.

David Atkinson, a member of the CALS Advisory Council from 2003 to 2009 and co-chair of the Environmental Sustainability and Development Task Force, says that new ideas and collaborations are vital in a time of exploding global population and dramatic economic growth. Cornell is the best-positioned university in America, and arguably the world, to develop solutions, in part due to its place as the most highly ranked American university with a college of agriculture, he adds.

“Agriculture has an enormous impact on the environment. In addition, a productive, efficient agricultural sector is a key ingredient for economic development,” David Atkinson says. “Any university addressing sustainability without a college of agriculture is operating at an enormous competitive disadvantage.”