(MIT President L. Rafael Reif and Samuel Tak Lee; Image via Bryce Vickmark)
MIT announced Thursday it’s received one of the largest gifts in the Institute’s history. Alumnus Samuel Tak Lee has donated $118 million to establish an entrepreneurship lab dedicated to advancing socially responsible and sustainable real estate development.
The new Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab will have a particular focus on China, where Lee helped grow Prudential Enterprise, a company founded by his father and cousin, into a multinational real estate firm. Lee’s gift will fund fellowships for U.S. and international students, and the lab’s curriculum will be internationally available, as well — all content will be uploaded to massive open online course platform MITx.
The lab will be housed in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Center for Real Estate. Building 9, which is home to the CRE, will be renamed the Samuel Tak Lee Building in honor of the graduate’s gift.
“With this gift, Sam Lee aims to tap the transformative power of real estate to shape the built environment,” shared MIT President L. Rafael Reif in a statement, “and thereby to shape the society and culture, to enrich our shared civic life, to increase our harmony with nature — in short, to make significant positive impact on the world.”
Lee, who received his bachelor’s degree in 1962 and master’s degree two years later, both in civil and environmental engineering, said his gift was motivated by a desire to create a program that tied real estate to 21st-century realities, such as land reform, environmental challenges, an evolving global economy and burgeoning populations.
Explained Lee in a statement:
This is a period of tremendous change and opportunity for entrepreneurs in China and around the world. By cultivating a long-term perspective, real estate professionals can create even greater value for themselves and for society based on responsible, sustainable strategies. I am eager to connect ambitious, talented students with the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed.
Formal programming will start in the 2015-2016 academic year and be focused on: urban resilience and adaptation; land-use reform regulations and codes; new construction materials; affordable housing; development and urbanization through private action and entrepreneurship; and environmental aspects of urban growth and development.
“We want our graduates to become catalysts for profitable development around the world,” said Albert Saiz, the director of the CRE, in a statement. “At the same time, we believe the real estate profession must develop nuanced solutions to global concerns such as environmental change, population growth and transforming economies.”
The gift was formalized Wednesday at a signing ceremony at MIT, attended by Lee and his son, Samathur Li; Reif; Israel Ruiz, MIT’s executive vice president and treasurer; Eric Grimson, chancellor for academic advancement; and Vice President for Resource Development Julie Lucas.
“Throughout China — and all over the world — there are talented young people with a strong capacity to take individual initiative,” shared Lee, who is widely known for his 1994 acquisition and development of the 14-acre Langham Estate in London’s West End. “My hope is that by offering them MIT-level tools and perspectives, the lab will empower students from all backgrounds to take their place among the next generation of global real estate entrepreneurs.”