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Earth Sciences begins ambitious fund-raising effort

STANFORD -- Seeking to maintain leadership in the solid earth sciences and expand into non-traditional fields that address world-wide problems, Stanford University has launched an Earth Sciences Program, an ambitious three-year effort to raise $30 million.

The fund-raising program, approved Oct. 1 by Stanford's Board of Trustees, will be used primarily for program advancement, endowed support for faculty and earthquake repairs, said W. Gary Ernst, dean of the School of Earth Sciences.

"The school provides an internationally recognized, broad- gauge program of applied and fundamental earth sciences and petroleum engineering," Ernst said. "While continuing to serve their well-established purposes, these programs also provide the basis for new developments in education and research that treat the Earth as a global system in which geosphere, biosphere, atmosphere and hydrosphere interact.

"Earth scientists are the logical people to organize the study of interactive global change. Except for sunlight and an occasional meteorite, everything that sustains life comes from the Earth -- and the study of the origin and evolution of this planet is the natural purview of earth scientists."

The expanding frontiers for the school include Earth Systems - an undergraduate major, now in its second year, similar in form to Stanford's Human Biology Program; a graduate research and training program in Global Change; hydrogeology and crustal fluids; geologic hazards; and ion microprobe spectroscopy. Plans for the last include a world-class facility for isotopic geochemistry, allowing the study of the origin and evolution of planet Earth.

The undergraduate major focuses on the science, engineering and economic aspects of the environment. It draws faculty from Stanford's Institute for International Studies; schools of Engineering and Law; and departments of biological sciences and economics, as well as the school of Earth Sciences. The graduate-level work is also multi- institutional, involving cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, NASA Ames Research Center and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute.

Of the total Earth Sciences Program goal, plans are to use:

  • $3.5 million to start or update current academic programs, especially Earth Systems and Global Change; to remodel laboratories; and to match equipment grants from federal and corporate sources.
  • $14.8 million to increase the school's endowment (which totaled $60.5 million in 1991-92) to create three new professorial chairs for current faculty members, one new chair for a faculty member yet to be hired, four faculty scholar positions (sometimes called junior chairs), and three faculty fellowships for postdoctoral scholars or younger faculty.

Unlike appointments of tenured faculty to endowed professorships, appointments of junior faculty as scholars and fellows rotate as the holders earn tenure or move on.

"Endowed faculty scholar positions and faculty fellowships aid in recruiting young faculty," Ernst said, "which is essential to the school and to earth sciences education nationally. New young scientists are the basis for progress in this field."

  • $2.6 million to reopen Geology Corner, a Quad building severely damaged by the Loma Prieta earthquake in October 1989.
  • $8 million through December 1995 to support evolving ongoing programs.
  • $1.1 million to raise the school's unrestricted income through those increases in Annual Fund gifts and by beginning to change some of its annual support into endowment.

Ernst said he hoped the fund-raising effort will reduce setbacks and diversions that are caused by cyclical financial support. In the near term, it would offset an $800,000 operating budget cut mandated by the university over two academic years ending in August 1993.

"We are vulnerable especially to reduction in university budget funds and gifts for faculty and teaching programs," he said, "because much of the industry and government support we receive is directed for specific projects."

Of the total fund-raising goal, $3 million will do double duty, contributing to the school's other goals while also earning a challenge grant from the Kresge Foundation of Michigan, one of the very few sources of building funds for non-profit institutions. The Foundation, already a large donor to the Cecil H. and Ida M. Green Earth Sciences Research Building, will give another $500,000 in matching funds for its construction if 25 percent of Earth Sciences alumni contribute to the school's other fund-raising goals by September 1993 and increase their average gift by 25 percent.


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