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Cornell University receives a $35M endowment for wildlife health center

Press Release
Article

The gift from philanthropist K. Lisa Yang, MBA, aims to advance science-based solutions for animal care and global One Health

Photo: ondrejprosicky/Adobe Stock

Photo: ondrejprosicky/Adobe Stock

A $35 million gift to Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine (CVM) will be used to support One Health initiatives by addressing challenges connecting wildlife health, domestic animal health, human health and livelihoods, and Earth’s life-supporting environment. The gift is the largest to date for the CVM and has prompted the university to bestow the benefactor’s name on the its’ wildlife health center that was launched in 2020.

The now-Cornell K. Lisa Yang Center for Wildlife Health aims to promote and facilitate multidisciplinary collaboration to address global wildlife conservation challenges, according to a university news release. The funds received from philanthropist K. Lisa Yang—an alumnus, a Cornell Board of Trustees member and a lifetime member of the Cornell University Council—will aid the center in its’ mission to move science into policy and action, provide training for aspiring wildlife health leaders, and offer student learning opportunities.

“Supporting and endowing the Center for Wildlife Health helps send a message that wildlife and human life, conserving our natural environment, and abiding by more mindful economic practices are critical if we are to leave a viable planet for our children,” said Yang, in the release.“Cornell’s unique strengths, focused on universal goals, will enable the institution to truly leave an outsized footprint in ‘doing the greatest good,’” she said.

The center aims to unify applied researchers, practitioners and others from across the university who are involved in wildlife health and conservation. The center includes more than 25 wildlife health professionals from a wide range of disciplines, with an emphasis on impact and fostering wider partnerships in the US and around the world. Partnerships between Cornell professionals and local communities have aimed to reduce human-wildlife conflict and to leverage conservation to improve economic opportunities and help alleviate poverty.

Ongoing work at the center has included research in southern African countries to reconcile conflicts between livestock and wildlife, tracking canine distemper virus in wild tigers and other big cats in Asia, and addressing health threats to wildlife in New York state. “Our fundamental goal is to help humanity make more holistic, better-informed decisions, in terms of land- and ocean-use planning, public health policy and environmental conservation,” said Steven Osofsky, DVM, the Jay Hyman professor of wildlife health and health policy, CVM, said, in the release. “We will utilize the opportunities this incredible gift provides to work on tilting the scales back toward the type of environmental stewardship we ourselves need to survive as a species.”

The funding will support faculty, staff and students in several ways, including through the new Cornell K. Lisa Yang Wildlife Health Fellows Program, which will create 14 new opportunities for veterinarians, postdoctoral researchers and graduate students. It will also create a Catalyzing Conservation Fund, an internal grants program that will provide seed money for critical wildlife health programs led by CVM faculty and staff and provide 5 years of support to the Cornell Wildlife Health Center Student Support Fund, which allows veterinary students with wildlife health interests to participate in off-campus experiences and on-campus research.

“Lisa’s wonderful gift reflects the kind of thoughtful philanthropy that has already done so much to strengthen our work toward sustainability,” said Martha E. Pollack, president of Cornell University, in the release.“This investment in wildlife health and conservation will pay dividends that will compound over time, building the awareness and expertise that are critical for our shared future on this planet.”

Yang, who also received an MBA from Columbia University, retired in 2001 after a career in investment banking at the First Boston Corporation and Lehman Brothers. She was the lead donor to establish the K. Lisa Yang and Hock E. Tan Employment and Disability Institute at Cornell’s ILR School and cofounder of the Hock E. Tan and K. Lisa Yang Center for Autism Research at Harvard University. She is also cofounder of 6 interlinked centers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology operating as the Yang Tan Collective, with major investments in autism research; neuroscience; molecular, genetic and circuits therapeutics; integrative computational modeling; bionics; and global engineering and research.

At Cornell University, Yang holds memberships in the ILR School Dean’s Advisory Council, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology Administrative Board, and the advisory council of the K. Lisa Yang Center for Conservation Bioacoustics, which she endowed with a $24 million gift in 2021.

Reference

$35M gift to advance science-based solutions for wildlife health. News release. Cornell University. January 30, 2024.

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