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March 11, 2009

$10 million gift endows graduate interdisciplinary program on the environment

Dan Emmett, '61, and his wife, Rae, have endowed the Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources with a $10 million gift through their Emmett Foundation.

"We are very grateful to the Emmetts for their support, especially in such difficult economic times," said program director Peter Vitousek, the Clifford G. Morrison Professor in Population and Resource Studies. "Their generosity is a giant step toward ensuring the long-term sustainability of the program."

In honor of the couple's support, the program has been renamed the Emmett Interdisciplinary Program in Environment and Resources.

The guiding philosophy of the program is that those who would lead the way in addressing the increasingly complex global problems now threatening the environment must be trained in and across a variety of disciplines to be effective. While the program is administered by the School of Earth Sciences, faculty from all seven schools at Stanford are involved.

Students focus on at least two traditional disciplines in creating their own hybrid programs of study and research for a doctoral degree. A joint master's degree is also available for students enrolled in the schools of Law, Medicine or Business. At present, there are about 30 doctoral students in the program and a growing number of students pursuing master's degrees.

"The most important thing was the fact that the program worked across disciplines, which I think is immensely important in all fields, but especially in seeking environmental solutions," said Dan Emmett, in reflecting on why he and Rae chose to make the gift. "Having visited IPER a number of times, we were really inspired by the quality of students and their enthusiasm and passion for making a difference."

Since its inception in 2001, the program has been dependent on "soft money," and the tenuous nature of the program's funding was part of the reason the Emmetts felt they wanted to endow it.

"In economic times like these, when the school is on a little leaner fare, people need to step up and support programs like this," Emmett said.

Emmett is chairman of the board of directors of Douglas Emmett Inc., a company that owns and operates commercial and residential real estate properties. He has served on the board of directors of numerous environmental organizations. He was an adviser to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's Green Building Initiative and still serves on a committee monitoring the progress of the state government in achieving the energy conservation goals set forth in the governor's 2004 executive order. He is also a member of the advisory council for Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment.

Emmett graduated from Stanford in 1961 with a bachelor's degree in history and from Harvard Law School in 1964. He worked as a lawyer in Malawi and Indonesia, as well as in Los Angeles, before founding his real estate company in 1971.

An avid outdoorsman, Emmett grew up in various rural realms of California—Alpine and Ventura counties and the San Joaquin Valley—which he credits with stimulating his interest in the environment.

"I spent virtually all my time in the outdoors because that was really all there was," he recalled. "And I guess that is the source for my appreciation for the outdoors, the special wild places that exist and the importance of maintaining them."

Emmett credits their son Daniel's early interest in conservation issues with accelerating his own interest and involvement. Daniel, the oldest of their four children, graduated from Stanford in 1996 with a master's degree in international development policy from the Food Research Institute. He is now executive director of Energy Independence Now, a nonprofit organization working to promote clean, renewable energy in California.



Louis Bergeron, News Service: (650) 725-1944,


Peter Vitousek, Biology Department: (650) 725-1866,

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