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As a co-founder of wireless communications company Qualcomm, Irwin Jacobs, together with his wife Joan, has long had a commitment to supporting the sciences, both within the San Diego Area and at their alma mater, Cornell University.

Irwin and Joan Jacobs committed to joining The Giving Pledge in August 2010. With this decision came the intention to donate at least fifty per cent of their fortune to various causes and organisations. The Giving Pledge, founded in 2006 by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, is made up of approximately forty US and international billionaires. All of them have agreed, like Irwin and Joan, to make a pledge to donate at least fifty per cent of their overall wealth to charity and other philanthropic causes.

In 2013, this saw the Irwins make philanthropic donations in excess of two hundred and twenty million US dollars. The largest single recipient was Cornell NYC Tech, which facilitated the establishment of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute. Other gifts of note were to the San Diego Public Library Foundation, the Dunway Foundation and the Jewish Community Foundation of San Diego, which saw the establishment of the Joan and Irwin Jacobs Fund.

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute

The Jacobs Technion-Cornell Innovation Institute

Although Irwin and Joan Jacobs make their donations mostly within the local San Diego area, their largest single donation of 2013 was given to enable the establishment of the Jacobs Technion-Cornell Institute at Cornell NYC Tech. When completed, the fledgling institute will see the establishment of both a new graduate school, to be built on Roosevelt Island, New York, which will specialise in engineering and science and a dual-degree master’s programme within Cornell Tech. Additionally, one of the grad school’s stated aims will be the establishment of stronger links between industry and academia.

A project jointly proposed by the Technion-Israel Institute and Cornell will facilitate students earning their master’s simultaneously from both. This specialised degree, in applied information sciences, will focus primarily on one of three main areas: the built environment, which will include the study of design, construction and management of buildings, parks and other associated infrastructure; healthy living; and the connective media.

With this donation, Mr. and Mrs. Jacobs are able to make a truly unique and lasting gift to Cornell University. It has been a special place for both of them, graduating as they both did from the university in 1954. Irwin earned a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, while Joan studied for a bachelor’s degree in nutrition.