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Faculty renewal gifts to support 'the lifeblood of the university'

To prepare for impending faculty retirements, the university has launched the campaign for the Cornell Faculty Renewal Fund with the goal of hiring 100 new faculty members by 2015. The target amount is $100 million -- half of which will be raised through the generosity of alumni and friends, and the other half matched by the university. Known as Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellowships, gifts to support faculty recruitment are well under way. Featured below are two recent gifts.

Barry Ridings, MBA '76

Barry Ridings

Barry Ridings MBA '76

"My recollections from my two years at Cornell are still as vivid in my mind as if I were still at Harold Bierman's class last week instead of 35 years ago," says Barry Ridings, MBA '76, who has recently given the Samuel Curtis Johnson Graduate School of Management $500,000 to create a Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellowship. With characteristic humor he adds, "I'm still worried I'm not prepared for class."

Ridings is vice chairman and managing director of Lazard Freres and Co., a leading financial advisory and asset management firm based in New York City that has been responsible for the restructuring of troubled companies, including such high-profile clients as Lehman Brothers. He also has been involved at Johnson as a member of the advisory council and a guest speaker. Discussing his recent gift to help Cornell address an impending wave of faculty retirement, Ridings says, "The lifeblood of the university is obviously the faculty, and we want to make sure that Cornell's incoming faculty is as strong as its retiring faculty."

Ridings laughs and adds, "My goal is really simple: I just want to make sure that the graduates are smarter when they get out of Cornell than I was when I got out of Cornell."

Dick '57 and Dale '58 Johnson

Dale and Dick Johnson

Dale '58 and Dick '57 Johnson

Dick '57 and Dale '58 Johnson have been supporting Cornell as a married couple since 1961, hardly missing a year, with gifts that support everything from athletics to art. This year, the Johnsons made a multiyear commitment that will total $500,000 for a Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellowship in the College of Arts and Sciences.

"We thought that having a strong faculty is one of the main reasons that Cornell could continue to be a great institution," explains Dick Johnson. Regarding the urgency of faculty recruitment, Dale Johnson adds, "I think a lot of people don't understand the situation, how many people are retiring … and the timing of it."

Both alumni of the College of Arts and Sciences -- she with a degree in psychology, and he finishing a liberal arts major and then a degree in electrical engineering a year later -- the retired couple credit Cornell for bringing them together. However, the Johnsons' romance did not blossom on the Hill; it only began two years after they'd already both moved to the Big Apple, through the help of an alumni newsletter: Dale Johnson wrote a column about her class reunion, which Dick Johnson read with interest and fond memories. Noticing the address at the bottom of her column, he decided to pay her a visit.

Loyalty and a deep connection to their alma mater play a crucial role in their gifts to the university. "We love Cornell," Dale Johnson says.

Related links:

Ezra magazine, summer 2011: Cornell pursues 100 new faculty fellowships

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