Alumni couple Yang and Yamazaki promote sustainability at Stanford

Steve Gladfelter Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki

Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki

The brand new hub for environmental problem solving on campus is already thriving. Students arrive by bike to attend seminars. Professors set up their labs. And crews put the finishing touches on the eco-friendly Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki Environment and Energy Building.

“We are thrilled to see environmental scholars move into this innovative building that models sustainable practices and provides the infrastructure to advance discovery,” said Stanford Trustee Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Inc. “It’s exciting to see Stanford tackle some of the world’s most complex issues.”

Yang and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, contributed $50 million toward construction of the building, which encourages multidisciplinary research by bringing together wide-ranging expertise to take on difficult environmental challenges. The building is at the heart of Stanford’s Initiative on the Environment and Sustainability, as are its main occupants: the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Institute for the Environment, the Precourt Institute for Energy Efficiency, and the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering. The initiative is a key component of The Stanford Challenge, a five-year campaign aimed at seeking solutions to intractable global problems and educating the next generation of leaders.

“This building and the programs it houses will allow the best and the brightest to convene and engage in problem solving in a unique way that’s only possible in an academic setting,” Yamazaki said. “What better place than Stanford for that, with its excellence in engineering, law, Earth sciences and biology.”

Yang added: “When The Stanford Challenge defined the environment and sustainability as a major fundraising initiative, it really hit home for Akiko and me.”

Born in Taiwan and raised in the Bay Area, Yang earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1990. He co-founded Yahoo! in 1994 while a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Stanford and is currently the company’s chief executive officer. In 2005, he joined the Stanford Board of Trustees for a five-year term.

Yamazaki was raised in Costa Rica and earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering at Stanford in 1990. She is a director of the Wildlife Conservation Network in Los Altos, Calif., and a trustee of both the Asian Art Museum and San Francisco Ballet.

“It’s great that we can contribute in some way, but at the same time, I don’t think that we can afford not to do this,” Yamazaki said. “Otherwise, our children are not going to have a good world to live in.”

“We are all enormously grateful to Jerry and Akiko for their incredible generosity,” said Jeffrey Koseff, the Perry L. McCarty Co-Director of the Woods Institute, the William Alden Campbell and Martha Campbell Professor in the School of Engineering, and the Michael Forman University Fellow in Undergraduate Education. “The Environment and Energy Building will allow us to move our ideas into action by providing the space and technology for collaboration and connections with decision makers, and it will create the spaces needed to train and educate leaders in the environmental realm.”

In addition to the gift for the new building, Yang and Yamazaki committed $5 million toward the construction of the Learning and Knowledge Center for the School of Medicine, and another $20 million that will be earmarked for projects to be determined later.

Over the years, Yang and Yamazaki have funded scholarships and fellowships, undergraduate education and other campus programs at the School of Engineering, the Asia Pacific Research Center, the Stanford Japan Center and the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. They also supported the Yahoo! Founders Professorship in the School of Engineering and co-chaired the recent Campaign for Undergraduate Education, which raised more than $1.1 billion to strengthen undergraduate studies.

Other donors to the building include:

  • Anonymous (Two)
  • Mary Ann, ’83, and Bryan Lee Bentrott, ’83 (Parents ’06, ’10)
  • Kathleen and John Graham, ’79
  • Holly Haley Knapp, ’80 (Parent ’11); Haley Knapp, ’11; and Tyler Knapp
  • Marian, ’54, and George Malloy, ’50
  • Tashia and John Morgridge, MBA ’57
  • David and Lucile Packard Foundation
  • Kristina, ’91, JD ’98, and George Phipps, MBA ’91
  • Molly and Jay Precourt, ’59, MS ’60 (Parents ’96)
  • The Wells Family