Barnard Media Relations,

NEW YORK, Jan. 28, 2016—Barnard College today announced that it has received the three largest gifts in its history, totaling $70 million, from three prominent New York families—$25 million from Cheryl Glicker Milstein and Philip Milstein; $25 million from The Tow Foundation on behalf of Leonard Tow and daughter Emily Tow Jackson; and $20 million from Diana T. Vagelos and P. Roy Vagelos—each of whom have supported the College for three decades. The gifts, which will aid in the creation of a 128,000 square foot, state-of-the-art teaching and learning center, are also a key component in Barnard becoming one of the first liberal arts colleges among its peers to institute a distinct technology requirement, beginning with the class of 2020.

“Barnard was founded on the idea that women deserve equal education and opportunity and, for more than 125 years, the College has provided the highest standard of liberal arts education to young women of intellect and ambition from all walks of life,” Barnard President Debora L. Spar said. “We are deeply honored by the exceptional generosity and long friendship of the Milstein, Tow and Vagelos families. Their gifts are transformative in every sense, allowing our campus to be as trailblazing, expansive and inspiring as our faculty, students and alumnae. With their gifts for this magnificent building, they have helped ensure that Barnard has the physical and technological capacity necessary to grow and deliver on its mission for decades to come.”

Donors Inspired by their Barnard Experiences

The Milsteins’ $25 million gift is their largest to Barnard. English major and theatre minor Cheryl Glicker Milstein ’82, for whom the College’s Glicker-Milstein Theatre is named, serves as vice chair of Barnard’s board and chairs its development committee. Philip Milstein, 1971 Columbia College alumnus, Columbia University Trustee Emeritus and Ogden CAP Properties principal and owner, serves on Barnard’s real estate committee. The couple is noted for their thoughtful philanthropy in education, medicine and the arts, particularly in New York City.  They have four children, three of whom are Barnard and Columbia alumni:  Toby (Barnard Class of 2014), Meredith (Columbia Class of 2009), Joshua (Columbia Class of 2010), and Laurence, a junior at Yale University.

“Barnard students have an unparalleled foundation that enables them to handle anything the world puts in front of them.  And as the global society continues to evolve, so do the needs and demands of a Barnard education,” Cheryl Glicker Milstein said. “Two generations of our family have benefited enormously from Barnard, so Philip and I wanted to be part of this singular opportunity to ensure that its physical campus matched the learning needs of the thousands of future women leaders who will walk through Barnard’s historic gates.”

Similarly, the $25 million gift from Leonard Tow and Emily Tow Jackson ’88 is also the family’s first of this magnitude to Barnard.  Leonard Tow was awarded a master’s degree in 1952 and a Ph.D. in 1960 from the Columbia Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.  He taught at the Columbia Business School from 1958-60.  A cable television and cellphone pioneer who began his career as a professor, Leonard has long been an active donor in medicine, education and the performing arts—areas of particular interest to Tow and his late wife, Claire.  Emily Tow Jackson is a Barnard trustee who co-chairs the Committee on Governance and Nominations and sits on the executive committee.  She studied history while at Barnard and today leads The Tow Foundation, which has created a number of programs at the College. These include teaching and faculty research awards, as well as public service internships and travel study grants for students.

“Barnard vigorously prepared Emily for her current leadership role, not just with our family foundation, but also as a strong voice among a new generation of philanthropists seeking real change,” said Leonard Tow, whose granddaughters, Olivia Tow (Columbia Class of 2014) and Molly Tow  (Barnard Class of 2014), are also alumnae.  “We are excited about deepening our relationship with Barnard to create a 21st century space on campus where students will have access to all the tools needed to bring their dreams to fruition, and faculty will benefit from a physical environment that fosters fresh, collaborative exchanges.”

“What is particularly special about Barnard is that it offers students the unique experience of attending a liberal arts college for women within the larger sphere of an Ivy League university,” Emily Tow Jackson said. “The new Teaching and Learning Center will not only transform the campus itself, but will enhance scholarship and research opportunities for students and faculty alike.”

Diana Vagelos ’55 majored in economics at Barnard and today serves as vice chair of the board, chairs the committee on campus life, and sits on the executive committee. Together, Diana and husband Roy Vagelos, who is a 1954 alumnus of the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and chair of Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and former CEO of Merck & Co., are renowned for a range of volunteer and philanthropic initiatives. In keeping with their interest in the life sciences, their $20 million gift will create the teaching and learning center’s computational science center and an endowed director position for this center as well as an endowed chair in chemistry.  The couple’s earlier $15 million gift to Barnard was the lead donation to build The Diana Center, a campus hub for student life that opened in 2010.

“At Barnard in the 1950’s, I was a scholarship student encouraged to pursue the study of the exciting and challenging field of economics.” Diana Vagelos said. “It is especially satisfying for us at this time to be helping Barnard students enter the age of ‘big data’ produced by the rapidly developing digital revolution.”

This distinctive facility, which will open in August of 2018, is designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and will be built by Turner Construction.  The center will give faculty and students double the amount of classroom, laboratory and study space; provide an enhanced library, special collections and archival space; house the College’s signature programs, the Athena Center for Leadership Studies and Barnard Center for Research on Women; and create a new computational science center as well as a digital commons with five innovative teaching labs that utilize new media and digital technologies. 

“Sharp intellectual curiosity, rigorous training and an open, bold approach to life have been among the hallmarks of a Barnard education,” Spar said. “These generous gifts from the Milstein, Tow and Vagelos families are in keeping with this deeply embedded spirit.  Thanks to them, Barnard has a creative solution to ensure that our four-acre space will never constrain our mission, but continue to serve as our students’ gateway to a world without limitations.”

Founded in 1889, Barnard was the only college in New York City, and one of the few in the nation, where women could receive the same rigorous and challenging education available to men. Today, as the world-renowned liberal arts college for women at Columbia University, Barnard College remains devoted to empowering extraordinary women to become even more exceptional.  For more information about the donors or the teaching and learning center, contact Barnard Media Relations at or 212-854-2037.