Gift of $200 Million Endows Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute

December 17, 2012

Dear fellow members of the Columbia community,

I am pleased to announce that Mort Zuckerman, widely known for his work as a publisher, editor, real estate investor, and philanthropist, has pledged $200 million to endow the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia University.  The contributions made by the Zuckerman Institute in coming decades to society’s understanding of neurological disease and to Columbia University’s intellectual life are expected to be immense.  On behalf of the University community, I want to express our gratitude for this historic gift and also acknowledge the profound responsibility to marshal these resources so that they fulfill the mission ascribed to the Institute today.

The list of neurological disorders that could be addressed by the translational research conducted at the Zuckerman Institute is breathtaking and includes Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, ALS, autism and Asperger’s, schizophrenia, and memory loss.  The scholars and research scientists assembled to lead the Institute, under the direction of inaugural co-directors Richard Axel, Tom Jessell, and Eric Kandel, possess a record of accomplishment in the brain sciences that is unsurpassed at any other research university.  And the variety of academic engagement we anticipate at the Zuckerman Institute is at once stunningly diverse and, upon reflection, absolutely plausible given the insights to be gained through studying the mind and behavior.  The disciplines engaged in these collaborations may include: statistics, mathematics, structural biology, chemistry, physics, psychology, engineering, law, business, political science, economics, and the arts.

Still, the greatest significance of the research and learning that will occur at the Zuckerman Institute ultimately may prove to be something different: the neural sciences offer the promise of vastly expanding our understanding of humanity.  What are the sources of criminality?  What determines investors’ reaction to risk and reward?  How does propaganda manipulate public opinion?  What spurs people to form groups?  How should we understand the capacity for appreciating great works of art?

Mort Zuckerman shares with Columbia University the belief that acquiring a greater understanding of the brain and the mind will unlock solutions to a vast array of human problems.  Moreover, he believes that to gain these profound insights about human behavior, we must assemble a team of great scholars and scientists.  With his gift, he is making it possible for the University to pursue this common vision.

The plan to base the Zuckerman Institute within the Jerome L. Greene Science Center also means that we will be fulfilling the late Dawn Greene’s dream of establishing an enduring home for world-class scientific exploration of the brain and human behavior, where the scale and variety of research will touch upon virtually every area of human endeavor and understanding.

Though Mort holds degrees from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and from McGill and Harvard Universities, today he is a Columbian, having chosen to become part of this community after careful deliberation.  We are grateful that he has done so.  For years to come, the gift Mort has made will change the teaching and scientific discovery that occurs on Columbia’s campuses and will change also the lives of many, many people throughout society.  Please join me in thanking him and celebrating the newly endowed Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute.


Lee C. Bollinger