Indian American to head Stanford’s new school on climate funded by the Doerrs


Mayo and IIT Bombay alumnus Arun (Arunava) Majumdar, professor of mechanical engineering and former co-director of the Precourt Institute for Energy at Stanford, will lead the school on climate change, the university’s first new school in 70 years, to be set up with the largest donation in its history.

Stanford president Marc Tessier-Lavigne informed the community last week that thanks to a generous donation of U.S. $1.1 billion by venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife Ann, the university will have unprecedented focus on climate.

The Doerrs’ gift is the largest Stanford has ever received, and only the second largest in U.S. academic history. The largest is Michael Bloomberg’s $3 billion to his alma mater, Johns Hopkins University.

Bloomberg added $150 million last May to increase racial diversity among students pursuing doctorates in science, technology, engineering and math.

Interestingly, Doerr was told by his legendary boss at Intel, Andy Grove, that quitting for venture capital was like becoming a real estate agent. But Doerr did not pay heed and joined VC Kleiner Perkins in 1980.

He has since directed fund distribution to aces like Compaq, Netscape, Symantec, Sun Microsystems,, Amazon, Intuit, Macromedia, and Google.

Majumdar was nominated by President Barack Obama to be U.S. undersecretary of energy for six months in 2011-2012, but the nomination was later retracted.

He is a pro at energy solutions and policies through his research on sustainable grid technologies besides having had direct experience in industry, including Google, and government.

A Calcutta boy, Majumdar recently told an interviewer that cricket, maachh (fish), murgi (chicken) and mishti (sweets) remain his big draw in Kolkata.

Doerr, an ally of Obama, served on the USA Economic Recovery Advisory Board that aimed to fix America’s economic downturn. He continues to serve on the board of the Obama Foundation. He also serves on the boards of Google, Amyris Biotech, Tradesy, ASAPP and Zynga.

The new school he is funding and which Majumdar will lead will focus on earth, climate and society. It is committed to develop knowledge and solutions in these fields at the scale this work demands.

The school aims to build on the foundation of Stanford Earth and other schools and interdisciplinary institutes. This includes Stanford’s Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, as a joint department with the School of Engineering.

Also planned is the creation of a sustainability accelerator and an Institute for Sustainable Societies, the addition of faculty in key fields such as energy, climate science, sustainable development and environmental justice, and new facilities to support this work.

Including Doerr, other supporters have generated an aggregate of $1.69 billion towards the launch slated for Sep 1.

In August 2010, the Doerrs signed the Giving Pledge, a campaign set up by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Warren Buffett to get ultra-high-net-worth individuals to donate their fortunes to charitable causes within their lifetime.