Sustainable future announcement

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

Today at Cornell University we formally establish the David R. Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF).

David Atkinson, a member of the Cornell Class of 1960 and a Cornell Presidential Councillor, has been a partner with Cornell in a highly successful pilot program organized in 2007 as the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future. The center currently engages 220 faculty fellows from some 55 departments on Cornell's Ithaca campus in interdisciplinary research on broadly defined sustainability topics. Center programs, linking Cornell research teams to external organizations, have leveraged Cornell's initial investment by nearly eight-fold, with support from the federal government, foundations, individual philanthropists, and corporations that totals $55 million.

Together with his wife Patricia, David Atkinson is now making an extraordinary $80-million gift that will enable the center, renamed in his honor, to advance multidisciplinary research and cultivate innovative collaborations within and beyond the university in order to create a sustainable future for all. A transformative investment in Cornell's faculty, staff, and students, the Atkinson gift will position the center to have a substantial impact on global sustainability.

Here are just a few examples of ACSF-assisted success in advancing research and scholarly collaboration in sustainability:

  • The Institute for Computational Sustainability, funded by the National Science Foundation, is pioneering computational methods for balancing environmental, economic, and societal needs for a sustainable future ( This team has founded a new field within computational science that is already being taken up by other universities and government agencies in the U.S. and Europe.
  • Strategic faculty cluster hiring in sustainability, coordinated by ACSF, is positioning Cornell for global leadership in the field. Key areas for strategic hiring include climate change, environmental and energy economics and sustainable enterprise, sustainable energy systems, sustainable systems engineering, biodiversity, and population.
  • The Sustainable Food Systems group, launched by the center's topical lunch program and seed funding, was formed to investigate key questions about measuring and modeling the nutritional, economic, energy, and environmental attributes of the nation's food supply, so as to better inform consumers, businesses, and policymakers faced with choices among multiple food supply chains. The group has recently received major grants, including three multimillion dollar awards from the USDA Agriculture and Food Research Initiative.
  • The Sustainable Buildings team, now funded by the Department of Energy, is developing advanced interaction, computation, and visualization tools for sustainable building design, while weaving sustainable energy concerns into the fabric of Cornell's educational offerings.

With David and Pat Atkinson's historic gift forming a permanent base for the university's unfolding capabilities in sustainability, Cornell researchers will increase internal and external engagement across a broad swath of themes.

Cornell aspires to be a leader in efforts to create a bright future for our world—for our children, grandchildren, and the following generations. We look forward to joining with you in this important work.

Cornell scholars, staff, and students need and value your passion, involvement, and support. We invite you to learn about the sustainability activities and programs growing at Cornell at

Best regards,

David Skorton