$22M investment funds fresh ASU initiatives

$22M investment funds fresh ASU initiatives

January 10, 2008

January 10, 2008

Arizona State University has received two gifts totaling $22 million to make seed investments in research areas that push the boundaries of traditional academic disciplines.

Donors Brian and Kelly Swette of Pebble Beach, Calif., and Sharon Dupont McCord and Robert McCord of Paradise Valley, Ariz., have made separate commitments to establish endowments at the ASU Foundation worth $10 million and $12 million, respectively. The endowments have been combined into an Intellectual Fusion Investment Fund for ASU that will promote sustainability initiatives and other research at ASU.

“I wish to thank Bob and Sharon McCord, and Brian and Kelly Swette for their generosity, and commend their foresight in understanding how problems will be solved in the future,” says President Michael Crow.

“Gone are the days of one-track learning only. We require, in addition to a new kind of brainpower, one that calls for such previously distinct subjects as engineering, the arts, economics, social sciences and biology to blend together. That doesn’t mean that traditional fields of study are unimportant. It just means that non-traditional fields of study are important, too.

“Cross-discipline collaboration can be electric. Creativity is essential. And those slight shifts in attitude create a dynamic environment in which to work and learn,” adds Crow.

Crow announced three immediate investments:

• A $2.5 million investment, spanning five years, will drive research in developing alternative fuel that uses sunlight and advanced bacteria to create bio-hydrogen.

In harnessing energy from sunlight using microbial photosynthesis to produce biohydrogen, ASU’s biohydrogen project aims to create the ideal environmental energy source that is easy and economical to produce, and does not generate greenhouse gases or pollute the air when burned.

A second part of this project focuses on converting waste materials from the initial process to produce even more hydrogen.

With the goal of researching new sustainable technologies to ensure a healthy future for the planet and its inhabitants, ASU’s Global Institute of Sustainability, the School of Sustainability and the Biodesign Institute are coordinating the funding for the biohydrogen project.

• A $1 million investment, spanning five years, will propel research on child development to better understand how children are affected by challenges they often face.

Knowledge pertaining to the dynamics of developmental trajectories and paths that are involved in changes across the period of childhood is rudimentary. The Challenged Child Project is a groundbreaking scholarly project in the formative stages at ASU’s School of Social and Family Dynamics. The project will bring together experts in a variety of disciplines who are dedicated to identifying the factors that promote healthy development in children versus those that lead to developmental degeneration in the face of a diverse set of challenges. To read more about this initiative, visit: asunews.asu.edu/20080107.

• A $2.5 million investment, spanning five years, will help ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change focus on relating different perspectives of the past, present and future of humanity to each other by investigating, in multidisciplinary teams, the emergence and evolution of human traits and phenomena over long periods of time.

The initiative, Late Lessons From Early History, aims to develop new ways to think about human and social evolution by looking at the emergence of modern societies in understanding the complex processes that lead to current conditions of humanity. To read more about this initiative, visit: asunews.asu.edu/20080107_humanevolution.

“We’re tremendously excited by all the good things ASU is doing to impact our lives, both locally and globally,” says Robert McCord. “It’s clear to us that ASU is a university on the move, and we simply wanted to support what President Crow is doing in the hope that others will want to do the same.”

Brian Swette says that he has been impressed by the integrated research that is under way at ASU when he returned to campus last spring.

“I came away from my tour absolutely convinced that ASU scientists and the group at the Global Institute of Sustainability are on the brink of major breakthroughs in our approach to the country’s energy needs, environmental concerns and long-term economic health,” says Swette.

“As an ASU alumnus, I’m thrilled to be a part of a place that is so focused on real-world solutions to our major problems.”

A 1976 ASU graduate of economics, Swette is chairman of the board of Burger King, Inc. He has also held senior management positions at eBay, including that of chief operating officer and senior vice president of corporate development, and several divisions of Pepsi-Cola, and Procter Gamble.

A strong supporter of ASU, he belongs to the W. P. Carey School of Business Dean’s Council of 100 and is a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Leader. He was voted a trustee of the ASU Foundation in 2007, and is a lifetime member of the ASU Alumni Association.

Sharon Dupont McCord and Robert McCord are well-known area real estate executives. Robert McCord is chairman of Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage in Scottsdale. Sharon Dupont McCord is the founder of Dupont Fine Properties Group at Coldwell Banker Real Estate Residential. Prior to her real estate career, McCord taught French at a number of educational institutions, including ASU.

Robert McCord began his career as a partner in an international accounting firm. He developed residential and commercial real estate projects and owned Coldwell Banker Success Realty, one of the largest real estate brokerage businesses in the United States.

In addition to this gift, the McCords have endowed the McCord Scholars, a scholarship program for business students at all three Arizona universities, and the McCord Chair of Real Estate in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. The couple is active in the ASU President’s Club, President’s Community Enrichment Program and the business school Dean’s Council of 100. Sharon Dupont McCord is a founding member of that organization. In addition to their ASU philanthropy, the McCords are trustees of the Success Charitable Foundation, which supports food banks and organizations involved with education, housing and human services in Arizona. They are also active in Habitat for Humanity and Childhelp, USA.

Because the funds are endowed, new projects and programs will be funded after five years and thereafter as a way of expanding the concept of intellectual fusion within the ASU academic setting.