Caltech Lands $600 Million

Upping the ante. Gordon and Betty Moore's gift to Caltech far exceeds recent blockbuster donations.

Semiconductor pioneer Gordon Moore and his wife Betty set a new record in philanthropy Saturday by announcing a $600 million donation to Moore's alma mater, the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. The largest gift ever to a university, the money will likely fund ongoing initiatives and items on Caltech's wish list. The gift easily tops two other record-breaking university donations this year: $400 million to Stanford University (ScienceNOW, 3 May) and $360 million to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (ScienceNOW, 13 March).

Moore earned a chemistry Ph.D. in 1954 from Caltech, a science and engineering powerhouse that today has 900 undergraduates and 1000 graduate students. He and a colleague went on to design the first microprocessor chips and found Santa Clara, California, based Intel; over the years he and his wife have donated about $50 million to Caltech. Half of their new, $600 million gift will be disbursed over 10 years by the $5 billion Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, established a year ago to fund environmental, science, and education projects. Moore says those funds will likely be spent on "measurable results." The other $300 million, spread over the coming 5 years, will essentially be unrestricted, says Moore.

Moore says he was motivated by his "long association with Caltech" and the feeling that the school "fulfills a unique position in the country" that's an "expensive endeavor." Caltech president David Baltimore calls the donation "wonderful."

Projects to fund, says Baltimore, will be mutually agreed upon, but they likely won't include expanding the campus or "moving in new directions." Instead, he expects the funds will strengthen existing research, which ranges from plate tectonics to postgenomics biology to consciousness studies. Baltimore says the funds may also be used to upgrade facilities and "help faculty realize their research dreams." Caltech, he says, has a wish list for its broader fundraising efforts that includes ideas such as a 30-meter optical telescope with the University of California. Money may also go to endowed professorships and the university's $1.5 billion endowment.

Related sites

Caltech press release on Moore donation
Largest private gifts to higher education since 1967
Background on Moore's law

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