Caltech: Break Through: The Caltech Campaign Raises $3.4 Billion to Support People and Research with the Potential to Change the World

The effort, publicly launched in 2016 with the goal of raising $2 billion, ended on September 30, 2021. It exceeded its initial goal by $1.4 billion. This transformational level of philanthropy provides direct investment in Caltech and its people; and grants them the freedom, flexibility, and resources to catalyze fundamental research that defines new directions; helps to expand knowledge; and creates new technologies, tools, and innovations to address global challenges and improve the human condition.

“I’m grateful to all who have decided Caltech is the place that deserves this very, very generous support, which provides us with a firm foundation to go forward into unknown territories,” says David L. Lee (PhD ’74), chair of the Caltech Board of Trustees. “We appreciate each supporter of this campaign who believes in us, believes in our approach, and believes that we can continue producing some of the most impactful results.”

Gifts to Break Through include nearly $1.5 billion from members of the Institute’s Board of Trustees; among these contributions was a $750 million pledge by senior trustee Stewart Resnick and his wife, Lynda Resnick, to propel Caltech’s sustainability initiative; it was the largest single donation in the Institute’s history.

In addition, nearly $30 million was donated by Caltech’s faculty and staff, $770 million was invested by alumni, and five additional investments of $100 million or more were made. More than 6,000 donations were received from individuals who gave to Caltech for the first time.

More than half of the gifts received through Break Through benefited the Institute’s $3.8 billion endowment and will help to ensure that Caltech can continue to be fearless as it tackles both long-standing and emerging problems for generations to come. These gifts—including nearly half a billion dollars in unrestricted gifts that can be used by the Institute’s leadership to retain its strength and competitiveness even in challenging times—will continue to provide future researchers and innovators with resources to pursue their boldest ideas.

“This campaign, most of all, has provided resources that support people–faculty, postdocs, students, and staff–so that they may pursue work driven by their imaginations, unhampered by financial concerns,” says Caltech president Thomas F. Rosenbaum, professor of physics and Sonja and William Davidow Presidential Chair.

As part of that support, Break Through gifts totaling more than $890 million were invested to support Caltech’s people through professorships, leadership chairs, scholarships, and fellowships. Of that investment, $100 million was directed to support early career scientists, $136 million was allocated for undergraduate student scholarships, and $275 million was donated for graduate student fellowships. These additional resources allow Caltech scholars to extend their reach, collaborate with colleagues across fields, and ultimately mentor, train, and educate future generations.

Additional Break Through contributions have helped to establish and amplify diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives as well as scholarships and fellowships focused on underrepresented students, pipeline programs, and Caltech’s Center for Inclusion and Diversity and Center for Teaching, Learning, and Outreach.

“A defining characteristic of Caltech is the ability to move beyond the conventional, to be able to draw insights from one discipline and apply them to another,” Rosenbaum says. “We are small, and intentional in what we do. We interact with colleagues easily. We exchange ideas easily. We emphasize big ideas, and, above all, we emphasize people. When you do this, you arrive at ideas that may or may not work, but when they do work, they let you approach science and technology in a novel manner that has the potential to change completely how one thinks about a subject area.”

Furthermore, in an effort to bring researchers and experts across fields together and to create dynamic state-of-the-art spaces to accelerate discoveries, Break Through gifts established or amplified 15 institutes and centers, and funded the construction of cutting-edge facilities and campus buildings to house them. From a new hub for the entire campus community to the addition of an undergraduate residence that brings all undergraduates onto campus to new venues for neuroscience, space studies, mathematics, mechanical engineering, and clean-energy research and sustainability science, the campus environment has been reimagined to strengthen existing and forge new connections and collaborations across disciplines.

“The generosity of our donors has provided wonderful new sources of support for our research community,” says Caltech provost David A. Tirrell, the Ross McCollum–William H. Corcoran Professor of Chemistry and Chemical Engineering and holder of the Carl and Shirley Larson Provostial Chair. “The flexibility enabled through multidisciplinary centers allows our researchers to respond to new opportunities and test new ideas much more quickly and effectively than they could if they had to rely only on external sources of support.”

Other donations created and funded innovation programs such as the Carver Mead New Adventures Fund, endowed in honor of Gordon and Betty Moore Professor of Engineering and Applied Science, Emeritus, Carver Mead (BS ’56, MS ’57, PhD ’60), a pioneer in microelectronics and information technologies, with the goal of supporting early stage but potentially game-changing new technologies; and the Rothenberg Innovation Initiative (RI2), which was initiated by and named for the late James Rothenberg, a former Caltech trustee, and his wife, Anne Rothenberg, and provides up to two years of support for research that could lead to marketable technologies.

As with all breakthroughs, the Break Through is just the beginning. The generosity and foresight of its many thousands of donors, both new friends and old, have played an extraordinary role in shaping the future of Caltech and will pave the way for world-changing discoveries and developments, lead to new knowledge and fields, and empower the innovators and research leaders of today and tomorrow who will improve our lives for generations to come.

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