Alumni couple Yang and Yamazaki pledge $75 million to the university

Courtesy Boora Architects Environment and Energy Building

The bulk of the $75 million gift by Yahoo! Inc. co-founder and Stanford Trustee Jerry Yang and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, will be used to cover construction costs for the new Environment and Energy Building. The eco-friendly structure is expected to be complete in December and will be located at the corner of Via Ortega and Panama Street.

Steve Gladfelter Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki

Jerry Yang, a university trustee and co-founder of Yahoo! Inc., and Akiko Yamazaki, a director of the Wildlife Conservation Network in Los Altos, pledged $75 million to support multidisciplinary programs.

University trustee Jerry Yang, co-founder of Yahoo! Inc., and his wife, Akiko Yamazaki, have pledged $75 million to enhance multidisciplinary programs at Stanford.

The bulk of the gift—$50 million—will be used to cover construction costs for the new Environment and Energy Building, which eventually will serve as the hub for environmental studies on campus. Another $5 million will go toward the construction of the high-tech Learning and Knowledge Center for the School of Medicine. The remaining $20 million will be earmarked for projects to be determined later.

The gift—the largest of several donations Yang and Yamazaki have given to their alma mater—represents a major contribution to The Stanford Challenge, the university's recently announced campaign dedicated to finding solutions to the most pressing challenges facing society and to strengthening multidisciplinary teaching and research across the campus.

"Stanford is indeed fortunate to have friends like Jerry Yang and Akiko Yamazaki," said university President John Hennessy. "Jerry and Akiko have always been loyal supporters of their alma mater, but this gift is particularly meaningful for the university as it seeks to address important issues of environmental sustainability. At the same time, it recognizes the critical role that cutting-edge research facilities play as hubs for dynamic intellectual exchange and innovative research in the ongoing search for knowledge that serves the public good. We are truly grateful for the generosity of spirit and breadth of vision embodied in this magnificent gift."

Sustainable future

Born in Taiwan and raised in the Bay Area, Yang, who earned bachelor's and master's degrees in electrical engineering from Stanford in 1990, co-created the Yahoo! search engine in April 1994 while a doctoral student in electrical engineering at Stanford. He is currently a director of the company and holds the title of Chief Yahoo. In 2005, he was elected to the Stanford Board of Trustees for a five-year term. Yamazaki was raised in Costa Rica and came to the United States to study at Stanford, where she earned a bachelor's degree in industrial engineering in 1990. She is a director of the Wildlife Conservation Network in Los Altos, Calif. The couple met in Japan in 1992 at the Stanford in Kyoto overseas studies program.

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

"When you live in a place like Costa Rica, the environment is just part of life," Yamazaki added. "Because it's such a small country, everything is very accessible. Sloths are always coming into your backyard, and if you want to see white-faced monkeys, you just drive an hour and there they are."

She said that she and her husband welcomed the opportunity to make a substantial contribution toward construction of the Environment and Energy Building, which began in 2005 and is expected to be completed in December. The estimated price tag for the finished building is $118 million. The 166,000-square-foot eco-friendly structure located at Via Ortega and Panama Street will provide a new home for the Woods Institute for the Environment, the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and several interdisciplinary environmental research programs.

"The future is in interdisciplinary problem solving," Yamazaki said. "This building and the programs it will house 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. What better place than Stanford for that, with its excellence in engineering, law, earth sciences and biology. It will really be drawing on all the strengths that Stanford has."

The new building will serve as a coming-together place for Stanford's environmental community, added Woods Institute Director Jeffrey R. Koseff, the William Alden and Martha Campbell Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering.

"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," he said. "We are all enormously grateful to Jerry and Akiko for their incredible generosity."

Added Yang: "I think in five, 10 or 15 years we'll be able to say, 'Wow, look at all the great things that have come out of that building.'"

Medical education

Yang and Yamazaki also have pledged $5 million toward construction of the School of Medicine's Learning and Knowledge Center, a 120,000-square-foot building that will provide cutting-edge technologies for training doctors. The center is expected to cost $90 million to $100 million and will replace Fairchild Auditorium.

"This new facility will be the most exciting and advanced center for medical education in the nation," said Philip A. Pizzo, the Carl and Elizabeth Naumann Professor for the Dean of the School of Medicine. "It will bring together state-of-the-art information technology, robotics and virtual reality to create an environment that provides novel approaches to education that are coupled with a commitment to humanism and compassion, and which will transform the educational experience for our medical and graduate students, as well as postgraduate residents, fellows and faculty."

In 2006, Pizzo asked Yamazaki and Nobel laureate Paul Berg, the Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor of Cancer Research, Emeritus, to co-chair the effort to raise $50 million for the new center. The $5 million gift will help jumpstart that fundraising effort. "The Learning and Knowledge Center will be a role model for the nation and epitomizes the values, commitment and contributions of Jerry and Akiko," Pizzo said.

"There is this notion that medical school education is still very much book driven," Yang said. "Over the last few years, there is really much more focus and opportunity for medical education to be done using technology. The Learning and Knowledge Center will be a hub for those kinds of activities. It really does marry our interest in information technology with medical education."

Over the years, Yang and Yamazaki have funded scholarships, 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 co-chaired the recent Campaign for Undergraduate Education, which raised more than $1.1 billion to strengthen undergraduate studies.

"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 child is not going to have a good world to live in."

"We keep coming back to Stanford as a place to give money to, because there's a uniqueness that Stanford offers donors like us," Yang said. "First of all, you can attract world-class talent. Secondly, there's very long-term thinking beyond what you can commercialize tomorrow, beyond what the politics are day-to-day. Number three, it's still a place about interaction, where the best lawyers, biologists and engineers are all sitting around drinking coffee together. You can't replace that with technology or video conferencing or flying around in airplanes. You have to be down the hall where you have the chance of creating some of the best ideas that will come out in the next century. We feel thrilled, actually, to be a part of that."