10/10/2013 11:52 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Pritzker Family's $15M Gift to UCLA Supports Sustainable Cities Research and New Sustainability Prize

By Alison Hewitt

The charitable foundation of Los Angeles philanthropists Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker has donated $15 million to UCLA to support environmental and sustainability research aimed at helping Los Angeles and cities around the globe confront 21st-century challenges.

The gift builds upon the work of UCLA's Institute of the Environment and Sustainability (IoES) by creating several new endowments. To attract top faculty, the funds establish up to five faculty chairs, including a $5 million endowed Pritzker Distinguished Chair in Environment and Sustainability. The donation will also endow a center for urban sustainability that will focus research on the vital challenge of creating more sustainable cities, especially a more sustainable Los Angeles. And the IoES will become home to the $100,000 Pritzker Sustainability Prize, which will support the creation of new technologies and initiatives that allow humanity and nature to thrive.

"This gift is a powerful expression of how visionary philanthropy can impact society," said UCLA Chancellor Gene Block. "The Pritzkers are taking aim at significant societal problems, and UCLA and Los Angeles will benefit enormously from their leadership. We are honored by their generosity and inspired by their trust in UCLA to develop solutions to pressing challenges facing our city, our country and the world."

UCLA has benefited from the support of the Anthony and Jeanne Pritzker Family Foundation for more than a decade. "We are excited to be associated with the world-class institution that is UCLA and to create endowed faculty chairs to help continue attracting top-tier professors -- a top fundraising priority for the university," said Tony Pritzker, who co-chairs the volunteer steering committee planning UCLA's Centennial Campaign. "These funds will further UCLA's standing as a leader in environmental sustainability and practice."


The Pritzkers are heavily involved in a wide range of philanthropic activities. Tony Pritzker has long been a champion of UCLA, where he chairs the IoES board of advisers and sits on the board of the Hammer Museum. He is managing partner and co-founder of The Pritzker Group, a private equity firm, and partner of the venture capital firm New World Ventures.

"The Pritzkers' extraordinary leadership will help not only the university but the whole region," said Glen MacDonald, director of the IoES and an internationally renowned authority on climate change and drought. "It will allow us to bring the very best minds to UCLA and really focus on making Los Angeles a world-class sustainable city. The research we do here will ripple around the globe as a model for the rest of the urban world."

"A great university needs great people, and exceptional faculty are an absolutely vital part of what makes UCLA one of the finest universities in the world," Tony Pritzker said. "Our goal is to make sure the brightest minds continue to flock to UCLA, helping to ensure its strength into the future."

A $5 million endowment will support the California Center for Urban Sustainability at UCLA, which will build upon the research done by the California Center for Sustainable Communities. The donation recognizes that for the first time in history more than half of the world's population lives in cities, and an estimated 70 percent of people will do so by 2050. The California Center for Urban Sustainability will allow the IoES to continue its groundbreaking research on maximizing cities' energy and water efficiency, protecting urban biodiversity, and improving quality of life. The center's goal will be to create solutions that not only improve Los Angeles but also help the majority of people on the planet.

Completing the Pritzker foundation's gift to the IoES is $3 million to create an annual symposium in conjunction with the awarding of the $100,000 Pritzker Sustainability Prize. A $1 million endowment will support the symposium, and a $2 million endowment will create the annual prize. The IoES director, advised by an internationally renowned panel of judges, will review applications from around the world. They will select the invention, policy, economic strategy or other novel solution that demonstrates the greatest impact on environmental sustainability from the previous two years.

The IoES offers a degree in environmental science, one of UCLA's fastest-growing majors, and boasts an interdisciplinary roster of more than 90 faculty members. The growth of the institute is in part a reflection of the university's commitment to researching environmental sustainability issues.

"When we think about the environment, we think about places like our national parks, but it's also very much the cities we live in," MacDonald said. "The Pritzkers are doing more than just contributing to UCLA. They're creating pathways for UCLA to solve some of this century's greatest challenges."