NEW YORK – Columbia University today announced that Robert K. Kraft, Chairman and CEO of The Kraft Group, owner of the New England Patriots and 1963 graduate of Columbia College, has pledged $5 million to the University in support of Columbia’s intercollegiate athletics program.
Kraft’s gift, one of the largest ever to Columbia Athletics, will provide early leadership funding for The Columbia Campaign for Athletics: Achieving Excellence, a $100 million initiative announced today. In recognition of the gift, the playing field at Columbia’s Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at the Baker Field Athletics Complex will be named “Robert K. Kraft Field.”
“Robert’s extraordinary gift is a great stride in the continued transformation of our athletics program,” says President Lee C. Bollinger. “We are proud to have his name associated with the field and thank him for his remarkable support of Columbia University. It's always especially wonderful to have a naming gift from a true friend.”
A former member of Columbia’s football squad, Kraft has become one of Columbia's most dedicated and involved alumni. A trustee emeritus, he served as a University trustee for two six-year terms, the maximum length of trustee service allowable. Kraft is also a principal benefactor of the Kraft Center, also known as the Columbia/Barnard Hillel, which was dedicated in 2000 and is one of his many contributions to the University. In November 2004, Kraft was awarded the Alexander Hamilton Medal, the highest tribute that can be paid to a member of the Columbia College community, in honor of his lifetime of service to Columbia. He and his wife, Myra, created the Kraft Family Fund for Interfaith and Intercultural Awareness with a $500,000 gift to Columbia in 2005.
“I am proud to support Columbia University and Columbia Athletics in particular,” said Kraft. “Lessons learned through athletic competition and teamwork can be invaluable lifelong educational experiences for students. I hope that my contribution helps kick off a successful fund-raising campaign to benefit the student-athletes at Columbia and help develop our future leaders for generations to come.”
Since Kraft bought the New England Patriots in 1994, the team has won more Super Bowl titles (3), conference titles (4), playoff games (15) and overall games (149) than any other team in the NFL. In 2006, Kraft received the NCAA’s Theodore Roosevelt Award, the highest honor the Association bestows.
“Robert is dedicated to excellence in everything he does,” says Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, Director, Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education. “We thank him for his commitment to our athletics program and our goal of achieving and sustaining excellence.”
“Robert’s generosity opens up a lot of opportunities for Columbia Athletics,” says Norries Wilson, The Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football. “His gift will help immensely in accomplishing Columbia Football’s goal of winning Ivy League championships. I thank Robert on behalf of our football program, and all Columbia teams.”
Columbia Athletics competes in NCAA Division I and The Ivy League, and features 29 varsity teams and more than 800 student-athletes, making it the largest intercollegiate athletics program in New York City, and one of the largest in the nation. In the 2006-07 academic year, Columbia won five Ivy League team championships, marking the highest single-year total in the program’s history.
The Columbia Campaign for Athletics: Achieving Excellence is part of the $4 billion Columbia Campaign, a University-wide effort formally launched in fall 2006 that is expected to conclude on December 31, 2011. More than $2.4 billion has been raised already.
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