Christoffersens make gift to sciences

In their second major gift to Cornell College, Ralph “Chris” Christoffersen ’59 and Barbara Christoffersen have committed $250,000 to the Science Facilities Project to ensure that Cornell has state-of-the-art science facilities within the liberal arts framework. Chris Christoffersen '59 and Barbara Christoffersen

“Our support comes from the belief that we need to reinforce as a nation the importance of excellent liberal arts colleges like Cornell. The sciences, in particular, are an integral part of a liberal arts education, and yet it’s one of the hardest areas to keep current,” said Christoffersen, a past president of Colorado State University who now is a partner in a venture capital firm. “Many fields move slowly but science is not one of them. This rapid increase in knowledge and technology over the last decade makes it essential to continue to invest in the technologies in those fields. Barbara and I are working to make sure Cornell stays state-of-the-art.”

Cornell’s $35 million science project, part of the Greater > Than campaign, will not only create state-of-the-art spaces, it will more than double the college’s STEM space. The Russell Science Center is scheduled for completion by January 2019, and will be followed by renovations of West Hall and portions of Law Hall. In two years the college has exceeded $33 million in gifts toward the project.

“Chris is highly knowledgeable in the sciences and higher education, and he and Barbara have given this gift at the perfect time to have a deep impact on the future of the sciences within the liberal arts,” said President Jonathan Brand. “They recognize the place that Cornell holds with the universe of prestigious national liberal arts colleges.  We are grateful for their leadership and commitment to moving Cornell forward in exciting and vital ways.”

Christoffersen has enjoyed six successful careers following his education at Cornell College as a  chemistry major and student of the liberal arts. He began his career as a chemistry professor and then vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Kansas. He later became president of Colorado State University, and following that was head of worldwide drug discovery at The Upjohn Co. and subsequently at SmithKline Beecham, and then CEO of Ribozyme Pharmaceuticals. In 2001 he joined Morgenthaler Ventures where he focuses on new biotechnology investments. He received a Lifetime Achievement Award in 2003 from the Colorado Biosciences Association. He currently serves on Cornell’s Greater > Than campaign cabinet and on the college’s Investment Committee. He and Barbara are based in Boulder, Colorado, where she is active as an artist and volunteer.

In 2012 the Christoffersens established the Deskin Chair in Chemistry in honor of Professor Emeritus of Chemistry William Deskin, with whom Chris studied and conducted research as a student at Cornell. The couple also supports Cornell’s Annual Fund and its Berry Career Institute.