$15 Million Gift to Redesign Engineering Education
Two Rice University alumni with engineering degrees — he a famed venture capitalist, she an environmental activist — have given their alma mater $15 million to transform the way engineers are educated.
The gift from the Benificus Foundation, a private charitable organization set up by alumni John ’73 and Ann Howland Doerr ’75, will fund the new Rice Center for Engineering Leadership and raise the bar for engineering educators nationwide. The center’s mission is to broaden Rice engineering education by incorporating current and emerging crises facing society and developing personal leadership skills needed to solve pressing global problems.
“Our increasingly complex and global world demands great, ethical engineering leaders,” Ann Doerr said. “And you can’t fake integrity.”
“The world’s best engineers are entrepreneurs and leaders,” added John Doerr, who was No. 1 this year on Forbes Magazine’s Midas list of the world’s top 100 tech deal makers. “They’re willing to take risks. They know innovation matters but execution is everything. It takes leadership to change the world.”
Doerr earned undergraduate and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Rice and an MBA from Harvard University. His interests as an entrepreneur and philanthropist extend to innovative green technology, urban public education, fighting poverty and the advancement of women as leaders. Ann Doerr, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Rice, is an environmental activist and a trustee of the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund.
The gift brings the Doerrs’ commitment to the Centennial Campaign to $22.5 million. A matching component of their donation could bring an additional $10 million to the center.
Their other recent donations funded computational cancer research administered by the Ken Kennedy Institute for Information Technology and two endowed chairs, one named for Kennedy’s parents and currently held by Professor Krishna Palem and one held by Professor Keith Cooper.