October 20, 2004
Major gift will establish new faculty positions in environmental studies
By Meredith Alexander Kunz
The Stanford Environmental Initiative has received a multimillion-dollar gift to establish a professorship in interdisciplinary environmental studies in the School of Humanities and Sciences and to enable the appointment of a senior fellow in the Stanford Institute for the Environment.
The $3.5 million gift, from longtime Stanford supporters Melvin B. and Joan F. Lane, will be matched with $2 million from the Hewlett Challenge. This match-part of a 2001 grant from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation designed to strengthen key areas in the School of Humanities and Sciences-will allow Stanford to put a total of $5.5 million toward endowed faculty support in interdisciplinary environmental studies.
The gift from the Lanes represents the first major commitment by Stanford donors to the new Stanford Environmental Initiative, a campuswide interdisciplinary effort that brings together faculty and students to solve global environmental problems.
The centerpiece of the initiative is the Stanford Institute for the Environment (SIE), which was established in April as a hub for environmental work at the university. The institute conducts research, teaching and outreach in environmental and energy issues, focusing on five themes: water; oceans; energy and climate systems; health and the environment; and biodiversity and ecosystems. SIE recently awarded its first seed grants for interdisciplinary environmental research-nine new projects, including efforts to develop biodegradable materials for the construction industry and to preserve biodiversity on ranches, farms and other working landscapes.
Senior fellows will form the core of the institute, and their primary focus will be on environmental work across disciplines. They will teach courses in Stanford's interdisciplinary environmental programs, including Earth Systems, an undergraduate major, and the Interdisciplinary Graduate Program in Environment and Resources. SIE directors Jeffrey Koseff and Barton "Buzz" Thompson plan to recruit distinguished scholars and practitioners to serve as senior fellows.
"This generous gift reflects both the Lanes' remarkable commitment to the environment and their appreciation of what Stanford can accomplish," said Koseff, professor of civil and environmental engineering, and Thompson, the Robert E. Paradise Professor in Natural Resources Law, in a statement. "The gift will help us to attract world-class faculty in environmental fields, strengthening the university's research and teaching in this area for generations to come."
Mel and Joan Lane have been dedicated Stanford volunteers for many years. Mel Lane is an emeritus member of Stanford's Board of Trustees. In 1980, he was awarded the Stanford Associates' Gold Spike, the university's highest award for volunteer service. Joan Lane is special assistant to the Board of Trustees. She also has been special assistant to President Gerhard Casper and two former deans of the School of Humanities and Sciences.
Mel Lane is widely recognized for his leadership on behalf of environmental conservation. He served as the first chair of the California Coastal Commission and the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission, and has been on the boards of the Peninsula Open Space Trust, the World Wildlife Fund and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. In 1998, he was named conservationist of the year by the California League of Conservation Voters.
Lane earned his undergraduate degree in economics from Stanford in 1945. After World War II, he and his brother, L. W. "Bill" Lane, worked full time in the family business, Lane Publishing Co. From the 1960s to 1990, the brothers shared responsibilities at the company, which published Sunset magazine and books. The company is now owned by Time Warner Inc.
Meredith Alexander Kunz is a writer in the Stanford Office of Development.