Philanthropist Michael Milken joined GW’s top administrators and trustees to formally open the Milken Institute School of Public Health on Thursday, cutting thick, colorful ribbons in the atrium of the new building on Washington Circle.
About 100 faculty, administrators, donors and trustees filled the floors of the school’s new $75 million building to celebrate the opening of the luxurious space.
Michael and Lori Milken, the namesakes of the school, used gold scissors to cut the tape. It was their first time on campus since announcing that the Milken Institute and the Milken Family Foundation would donate a combined $50 million to the school to fund scholarships, faculty hires and research.
Michael Milken stressed in a speech that the school’s faculty should not leave public health problems like obesity and diabetes to students to solve. Milken is a survivor of prostate cancer and has donated millions of dollars to medical research at institutions across the nation.
“They’ll have plenty of other problems to worry about if we can solve the problems of health and medical research,” Milken said.
They visited more than 200 universities around the world before trustee Mark Shenkman convinced them that “the talent that was leading George Washington University was world class,” Milken said. Another $30 million of the three-part gift to name the school came from the Sumner M. Redstone Foundation. Media mogul Sumner Redstone, whose family owns Viacom, did not attend the event.
The seven-floor building houses two atriums and is surrounded by windows to let in natural light. University President Steven Knapp lauded the design for embodying “the values of public health,” pointing to the offices equipped with standing desks for faculty to use. The stairs are also more visible than the elevators to encourage people to walk, Knapp said.
Other attendees included the school’s former dean Richard Southby, as well as Rep. Chaka Fattah, D-Penn.
The building unites the school’s seven departments under one roof for the first time in its fourteen-year history. Dean Lynn Goldman has said she hopes that the building will encourage more research collaboration among faculty members.
Like Milken and Knapp, Goldman stressed that the new building encourages faculty to conduct more research and resolve public health crises.
“We’re leaving the next generation with a lot of serious problems to solve, and we also need to leave them with the knowledge and skills and capacity to do that,” she said.
Board of Trustees Chair Nelson Carbonell said he hadn’t anticipated how much the school would succeed when the University broke ground on the project two years ago.
“It’s an important event for the University because it brings together the community,” he said. “I’m pleased that we have the Milken Institute as our partner in this endeavor.”