Sep

27

$50 Million Gift to New Medical and Graduate Education Building

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Mr. Vagelos and his wife, Diana Vagelos, of Barnard Diana Center fame, gave a whopping $50 million to fund a New Medical and Graduate Education Building. This is the largest gift the Med Center has ever received in a fundraising campaign. This isn’t the grad school center we wrote about last week, as it’s specifically for Med school education. It’s The Vag… uptown!

Update: PrezBo has officially spoken, again reiterating the “truly inspirational” nature of the Vagelos’ generosity. Check your inboxes for his take, but read the original press release below!

NEW YORK (September 27, 2010) – Columbia University Medical Center announced a major gift of $50 million from a respected alumnus of its medical school, P. Roy Vagelos, M.D., and his wife, Diana Vagelos. The gift will support the construction of a new medical and graduate education building, which will be built on the medical center campus and named in their honor.

The Vagelos gift marks the largest received for CUMC’s fundraising campaign. With its receipt, the campaign for the College of Physicians and Surgeons (P&S) has raised more than $1 billion, making it one of the first medical schools in the nation to achieve this level of support.

“It is clear that whatever the benefits Roy and Diana Vagelos may have gained from attending Columbia and Barnard, they have given even more back to our university through decades of service and support, and we are enormously grateful,” said Columbia University President Lee C. Bollinger. “With this latest demonstration of generosity, they are helping establish a new sense of community and campus life at our medical center in Washington Heights that is so important to our attracting future generations of talented medical students and faculty. Roy Vagelos’ understanding of the resources required to train today’s top medical researchers and clinicians, and his deep and abiding engagement with Columbia, have made him an invaluable partner in our long-term plans to enhance all aspects of life and learning at our medical center.”

A renowned leader in the pharmaceutical industry, Dr. Vagelos was former chairman and CEO of Merck & Co. Inc., having graduated in 1954 from P&S. Throughout his career, he has been a stalwart supporter of P&S, campaigning to raise money for its programs and serving as a mentor for faculty, students and staff. Today he serves as chair of Columbia University Medical Center’s Board of Visitors, and he is also chair of the medical center’s Defining the Future campaign.

“If we tried to create the perfect volunteer for our medical center, we would try to invent Roy Vagelos,” said Lee Goldman, M.D. dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and Medicine and executive vice president for health and biomedical sciences at Columbia University. “His and Diana’s generosity of spirit and support are truly inspirational. Generations of medical and graduate students will benefit from their generosity and vision.”

“This new education building will ensure that Columbia continues to produce superior doctors and researchers, trained in the latest techniques, as medicine continues to evolve rapidly throughout the 21st century. The building also will allow us to centralize key activities in a state-of-the-art facility that reflects our commitment to world class education and the quality of student life,” said Dr. Goldman.

Dr. Vagelos and his wife, Diana, a graduate of Barnard College, met at a party held by a mutual friend while Dr. Vagelos was attending P&S and she was a first-year student at Barnard.

“When I first came to P&S 60 years ago, the facilities were first-rate, as many of them had just been recently built. Naturally, over time some of them have aged, and new technologies and teaching resources are now required to provide the best modern education opportunities,” said Dr. Vagelos. “We are training the doctors who will deliver medical care, the scientists who will perform groundbreaking scientific research, and the teachers who will help train the future generation of physicians and scientists. It is important that their educational facilities are as exciting as medical science is today.”

“The new building will have the best possible design that is attractive, comfortable, and appropriate for the intense kind of education that our students receive. The formal learning space will have state-of-the-art electronics that facilitate the delivery of information to students. In addition, there will be space where the students can informally interact and work as teams – reflecting our new curriculum which emphasizes team-based learning. And there will also be space to relax and have coffee,” said Dr. Vagelos. “It will incorporate every aspect of medical and graduate education – updated in a modern, environmentally responsible way.”

This project is part of an overall medical center campus revitalization plan that will add green space, create a new front door to the medical school, consolidate student services, and renovate several existing buildings. The projected total cost for the entire project is $185 million.

“Sustainable design is an important initiative for Columbia,” said Amador Centeno, vice president of facilities management for Columbia University Medical Center. “The design of this new building reflects our commitment to reducing our footprint on the environment and our surrounding neighborhood in a smart, responsible way.”

A 1955 graduate of Barnard College, Diana Vagelos serves on the Board of Trustees of Barnard as vice chair of the board and chair of the Trustee Committee on Campus Life. She and Dr. Vagelos have an extensive history of generous giving to Barnard College and Columbia University Medical Center.

Dr. Vagelos received his bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1950. After receiving his medical degree from P&S, he completed an internship and residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Dr. Vagelos then focused on research at the National Institutes of Health where he won scientific recognition as an authority on lipids and enzymes. He subsequently became chair of the Department of Biological Chemistry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and founding director of Washington University’s Division of Biology and Biochemical Sciences.

In 1975 Dr. Vagelos joined Merck as head of research and in 1985 he was appointed CEO and chair of the Merck Board of Directors. Under his leadership some of the most important drugs and vaccines of that era were developed, including the statins for control of blood cholesterol and the vaccine that protects against infection by Hepatitis B virus which causes liver cancer.

Dr. Vagelos authored more than 100 scientific papers published in peer-reviewed journals and has received much recognition throughout his career, including numerous awards and honorary degrees celebrating his influence on national science policy, his contributions to the advancement of scientific knowledge and biomedical research, and his commitment to the development of new, improved therapeutic options to better treat complex diseases. He is an elected member of the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences.

In addition to his current public policy and advisory activities, Dr. Vagelos is chairman of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc., a biotech company.

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14 Comments

  1. Wow,  

    this is awesome. I know we get negative about Columbia a lot on Bwog, mostly because it's frustrating to be asked to donate when you're up to your neck in student loans. But it's great to see people care so much about this school who are capable of making a huge difference in the quality of its programs.

  2. Oh PrezBo...  

    "...whatever the benefits Roy and Diana Vagelos may have gained from attending Columbia and Barnard..."

    I find this phrase hilarious.

  3. Columbia  

    gets so much Vag

  4. i dont get it

    you get called a "tool" at this school if you have aspirations to make money, want to go into finance, law, and entreprenuership. but then all you tree hugging hippies and hipsters go "YAY!!!" when a rich alum donates money to fund YOUR financial aid.

    what a bunch of double standard hypocrites. seriously, i want you all to look at yourselves and see where your thoughts are comin g fromi

    • i dont get it

      why would you hit thumbs down? why dont you debate with me a bit? you know, im curious as to what youre all thinking

      argue with me a bit here.

      • hater-debater  

        well if you want to provoke some constructive debate it is often best not make personal insults on the intended opposition especially in the first statement.
        And also this isn't for financial aid, it's the exCEO of Merck giving up some of his dirty money to get a P&S building with his name on it...YAY? I suppose I'm indifferent as long as the place isn't a BigPharma training grounds (quite likely) nor constructed on eminent domain land (also likely)...

        • i dont get it

          Everytime a millionaire alum donates money to columbia, it’s usually one of two things:

          1) Financial Aid (like the last guy, who donated $400 Million for use in Columbia’s financial aid initiatives. You DO realize that you’re receiving free cash by going here right? Get over yourselves – under what merit does a 17 year old kid fresh out of high school deserve to receive $150,000 just for doing academic work you’re supposed to be doing anyway? Let me put things in perspective: some of us from middle-income families who worked hard and started our own businesses while in college, don't receive financial aid - the assumption is that we can pay for it ourselves.

          2) A Building under his name, usually a research building, which, upon completion, will serve as a home to amazing research projects. Your own hatred for a few of corrupt rich CEOs shouldn’t be used a reason to generalize. Dirty CEO money? really? You won’t be talking shit when in 80 years your great grandchildren become vaccinated from HIV by research done in a Columbia lab.

          Generalizing that all ambitious people are parasites to society is like generalizing all hippies smell like shit. Let’s not go there.

  5. Dear Bwog,  

    No need for a regurgitation of what's been sent out to all Columbia students that has already been expressed in an email. In short, stfu.

    • Carolyn  (Bwog Staff)  

      For what it's worth, we posted the press release a little over an hour before PrezBo sent the email out to all Columbia students. If you have any other questions or concerns, feel free to email Eliza, the Bwog editor: [email protected]

  6. i dont get it

    Everytime a millionaire alum donates money to columbia, it's usually one of two things:

    1) Financial Aid (like the last guy, who donated $400 Million for use in Columbia's financial aid initiatives. You DO realize that you're receiving free cash by going here right? Get over yourselves - under what merit does a 17 year old kid fresh out of high school deserve to receive $150,000 just for doing academic work you're supposed to be doing anyway?

    2) A Building under his name, usually a research building, which, upon completion, will serve as a home to amazing research projects. Your own hatred for a few of corrupt rich CEOs shouldn't be used a reason to generalize. \Dirty CEO money?\ really? You won't be talking shit when in 80 years your great grandchildren become vaccinated from HIV by research done in a Columbia lab.

    Generalizing that all ambitious people are parasites to society is like generalizing all hippies smell like shit. Let's not go there.

    • explanation  

      The only way one becomes rich is by being successful in the economic system and making a large profit. The reason that people of relatively modest means can sometimes become wealthier is because profit can be invested as capital into business in order to make even more profit. That's a fundamental component of our economic system, and it's what enables limited social mobility. The measure of success in our economic system is profit: the best businesses make the most profit. And businesses can only increase their profit in one of two ways: making more revenue or limiting expenses. For a business that caters to customers, they need to make sure they keep their customers happy. In theory, this allows the economic system, which is focused only on profit, to value externalities like human rights and sustainable development. If most customers only buy non-sweatshop-labor clothing, for example, companies will be forced to not use sweatshops. But what if most customers don't care about human rights? Then companies will produce goods at the lowest possible cost, regardless of the effects on human rights. The market can express customers' moral views, but it is not inherently moral; it's completely amoral.

      Because one needs money in order to make more money, one is disadvantaged if they come from a lower-class background. If they don't have money to invest or start up a new company, they will have to make money the only way they can: by selling their labor. Another hallmark of our economic system is the free labor market, the idea that employers and employees can voluntarily enter into labor agreements that are mutually suitable for both. Unfortunately, it is almost impossible for this agreement to be fair when it comes to the poorest and most vulnerable workers. In order to survive you need food, so you need money, so you need a job. If you need a job to survive, you're not in a position to fairly negotiate in your best interests; you'll take whatever you can get because you must in order to survive. You can easily be taken advantage of by an employer, and since profit is the key incentive, those employers that exploit their employees as much as possible are those that will be successful, barring a customer backlash.

      That's the difficulty with the economic system, and the reason why many liberal-leaning Columbians are skeptical of economic success. The economic system is not bad and it's certainly not evil, but it's inherently amoral. While the free market ensures that market incentives and the resultant practices roughly parallel customer preferences and therefore societal norms, it does not prioritize human rights and even dis-incentivizes practices practices that are less moral but more profitable, most notably exploitation of vulnerable workers. If you become very successful in this system, you must be indirectly exploiting other people.

      • i dont get it

        What you say is true but it usually holds for industrial-type companies.

        A HUGE share of the companies owned/shared/run by Columbia Alums are not in industrials/raw materials/manufacturing, etc.... Instead, lots of them are start ups in technology, medicine, scientific research (usually a business spawned from a project led by a professor and a few of his students), and other businesses that make our lives easier.

        For example, check out: http://www.techventures.columbia.edu I doubt any of those companies are exploiting workers.

        I started a few tech businesses with Columbians and other friends from schools of similar caliber - I can tell you firsthand that if anything, the EMPLOYER gets fucked, especially when the employee has an engineering degree and we have to pay him market rate which can be close to $100k for an experienced guy, REGARDLESS of whether he has work to do or not. If we paid him hourly, they usually try to hustle you out of 1-3 extra hours of pay by either lagging the project or creating "problems." As someone who interned at CitiBank's tech division, there were some guys who on purposely wrecked an office computer and then called the cops to make it look like some kind of burglary in order to buy more time to finish a project (and get paid overtime). The employer isn't always the unethical one - the employee is the one who gets paid here.

  7. Anonymous  

    Jeez, how much money do those people have?

  8. as a current student uptown 168th

    who was also as student downtown 116th , this is really appreciated.
    go Dr.and Mrs V !!!!!!!!

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