Picker Funds New Interdisciplinary Institute

Margaret Powers

Colgate University recently received a six-million dollar donation from Colgate alumnus and trustee emeritus Harvey Picker ’36. The donation is intended to encourage interdisciplinary initiatives in the sciences and mathematics, as well as the arts. The donation will be spent on two projects, with $4.5 million awarded to create the Harvey Picker Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Mathematics and $1.5 million to fund additions and improvements to the Picker Art Gallery.

The Harvey Picker Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Mathematics is intended to encourage students to participate in programs, research and studies in interdisciplinary fields.

“Disciplinary boundaries are an artificial and unacceptable hindrance, yet larger research institutions are often too compartmentalized to cooperate the way we can at Colgate,” Provost and Dean of the Faculty Lyle Roelofs said. “Our great advantage is in the combination of the liberal arts structure of our curriculum featuring close faculty and student cooperation, together with the scope and breadth of our course offerings.”

Picker’s gift is intended to fund research programs, workshops, conferences and public events that connect the sciences to the arts and humanities. The donation will also allow Colgate to acquire journals, books and other research materials of an interdisciplinary nature.

The creation of the Picker Institute for Interdisciplinary Studies in Science and Mathematics coincides with the construction of the new Robert Ho Science Center. The new building will house offices for the new institute and serve as a location for many of its programs and activities.

Picker’s donation to the Picker Art Gallery will be used to acquire new works of art and improve the gallery’s exhibition and storage areas.

“This marvelous donation will ensure that Colgate’s fine arts museum continues to realize the promise of its ‘Picker’ name in the 21st century, becoming an even more vital resource for Colgate students, alumni and staff and emerging as a major cultural destination in New York State,” Director of the Gallery Elizabeth Barker said.

Since his graduation from Colgate, Harvey Picker has served on the Board of Trustees and the alumni corporation.

Picker’s donation is “very creative” and unique, Roelofs said. “You don’t find many donors like [Picker] today in having such a keen sense of how to help an institution make itself better.”

“I have been impressed with Colgate’s sensitivity to the skills that will be needed by its graduates,” Picker said, “and the recognition that most problems our civilization faces are not solved by a single field of science, but have to be solved by an understanding of the relationship of two or more sciences. Colgate is taking advantage of its new well-equipped science building to take a leadership role by opening this new exciting aspect of science for liberal arts students.”