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Alum makes $10 million donation to fund interdisciplinary center

A Columbia alumnus has given the school $10 million to establish an interdisciplinary center for the study of business and law, the University announced in a press release Monday.

The Richard Paul Richman Center for Business, Law, and Public Policy, donated by a foundation run by Richard Paul Richman, Law ’72 and Business ’73, will open in July.

Business School Dean Glenn Hubbard, Business School professor Chris Mayer and Law School professor Edward Morrison will be the center’s three directors, according to Jane Trombley, the Business School’s Director of Public Relations.

The center is unique in that “we plan to publish both empirically-grounded academic research but also policy papers grounded in our academic research,” Morrison said.

The donation, from the Richard Paul and Ellen S. Richman Private Family Foundation, also partially funds two new professorships: one in the Business School and one in the Law School. Richman said that $3 million of his donation will go towards establishing these new posts, with an additional $3 million coming from a matching donation to each school.

Richman said the center was formed to address the interconnected nature of the current studies of law and business.

“It’s hard to think of something where having a business and law education wouldn’t be helpful,” Richman said.

Richman said it is very difficult to isolate issues in public policy and study them independent of other disciplines.

“Two of the hottest issues in the last Congress were financial regulation and health care,” he said. “I don’t care what your viewpoint is of those subjects, it’s almost impossible to even try to attempt to reform either one without addressing the legal nature of the problem.”

The deans of the Law and Business Schools have been interested in integrating their respective curriculums beyond the existing three-year J.D.–M.B.A. degree for a long time, according to Richman.

“The whole concept [of the joint degree] is that in order to facilitate the program, there’s going to have to be classes that are relevant to both law and business at the same time,” Richman said, adding that his joint degree has been a major asset. “The center gives us the ability to create law–business courses that can be specially designed and available for law or business students who may not even be in the joint program.”

Richman chairs the Richman Group, one of the country’s largest owners and developers of rental housing.

Morrison said the center will make use of the intellectual capital of the greater New York area to bring together leaders from the law, business, and financial worlds and the faculty at the Law and Business Schools to address “‘after-the-crisis’ kind of questions.”

“So much of the work has been in diagnosing the crisis and in immediately responding to it,” Morrison said, referring to the financial crisis that began in 2007. “The center will surely touch on those issues, but one of the broader agendas is to think about what the future holds. How do we avoid those crises in the future?”

“Faculty at the both the Business School and the Law School share a commitment to addressing the complex challenges found at the intersection of their disciplines, and the Richman Center will undoubtedly be a valuable source of innovative scholarship and real-world solutions in the years ahead,” University President Lee Bollinger said in the press release.


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