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Jim and Becky Morgan's $10 million gift supports top priorities

Becky Quinn Morgan and Jim Morgan

Becky Quinn Morgan '60 and Jim Morgan '60, MBA '63.

A recent gift of $10 million from Jim Morgan '60, MBA '63, and Becky Quinn Morgan '60 has only one stipulation: that it be used to support Cornell where it will have the most impact.

As entrepreneurs and committed philanthropists, the Morgans have a long history of giving to Cornell. Before retiring as president and CEO of Joint Venture: Silicon Valley, Becky Morgan was a teacher and California state senator. Jim Morgan is a retired CEO of Applied Materials, the world's leading supplier of equipment for the manufacture of semiconductors, solar panels and flat-screen displays. In 1993, with their adult children and their spouses, the couple started the Morgan Family Foundation, which advances philanthropic causes from education to environmental conservation.

"The university has excellent leadership in the president, the provost and the set of deans we have now," Jim Morgan says. "We gave a $10 million unrestricted gift to be utilized as the provost thought would provide the most leverage to the university."

The Morgans' gift supports faculty renewal ($4 million), "One Cornell" undergraduate student learning initiatives ($2.1 million), the New York City applied science and engineering campus initiative ($1 million) and future initiatives ($2.9 million).

The gift provides a snapshot of a few of the university's top priorities, and it is no accident that faculty renewal is receiving the largest allocation. "There is urgency behind this initiative as other top universities are moving quickly to make strategic hires as they recover from the economic downturn," explains Provost Kent Fuchs. "Our ability to compete for the next generation of 'star' faculty will depend on the resources we have available now."

Under the Cornell Faculty Renewal Initiative – which matches gifts for faculty recruitment on a dollar-per-dollar basis – the Morgans' $4 million gift harnesses another $4 million from university funds. The provost has directed $5 million to the College of Engineering and $3 million to the College of Human Ecology, Jim and Becky Morgan's respective schools.

"This unbelievably generous faculty renewal gift from the Morgans comes at a critical time for the college, as we are planning for the turnover of nearly one-third of the faculty over the next five years," says Lance Collins, dean of the College of Engineering. "This will allow us to hire aggressively in strategic areas, while taking advantage of the amazing talent pool out there that has resulted from the diminished hiring of faculty nationwide caused by the economic downturn."

Demonstrating the gift's immediate impact, Alan Mathios, the Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Dean of the College of Human Ecology, has hired two distinguished faculty members – Nathan Spreng, formerly a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard, and Jintu Fan, a world-renowned textile researcher from Hong Kong's Polytechnic University – who will be known as Rebecca Q. and James C. Morgan Sesquicentennial Faculty Fellows. A third hire in neuroscience is under way. According to Mathios, with the help of the soon-be-completed MRI center in Martha Van Rensselaer Hall, Spreng will contribute his neuroscience expertise to "advancing the college's mission to extend the depth of research in the areas of biological and social sciences ranging from childhood and adolescent behaviors to aging." He adds that "bringing Jintu Fan to our college is a major step toward bridging the technical interface of fiber science and apparel design in an increasingly competitive field."

For Jim Morgan, trust in the strengths of the university is what motivated the couple's gift: "Cornell has a really powerful capability to have a huge influence on the world over the next decades. We just want to accelerate this process."

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