Philanthropist Lisa Yang Gives Cornell $35M for Conservation Education

Yang and her husband, Hock Tan, have given millions to science-focused initiatives at schools like Cornell, MIT and Harvard.

Woman wearing black shirt and pearl necklace
Lisa Yang has been a longtime patron of the university. Rachel Philipson/Cornell University

A research center dedicated to wildlife health at Cornell University just received a $35 million boost from Lisa Yang, a retired investment banker who earned a bachelor’s degree from the school in 1974.

The funds will endow the university’s newly renamed K. Lisa Yang Center for Wildlife Health. Launched in 2020, it addresses global wildlife health and conservation challenges through multidisciplinary collaboration. Some of the center’s ongoing projects include reducing conflicts between livestock and wildlife in Southern African countries, tracking canine distemper virus in big cats in Asia and tackling health threats to wildlife in New York state.

Yang’s donation will establish 14 new fellow opportunities and launch an internal grants program for the center, in addition to providing five years of support for its recently launched student support fund. “Supporting and endowing the Center for Wildlife Health helps send a message that wildlife and human life, conserving our natural environment, and abiding by more mindful economic practices are critical if we are to leave a viable planet for our children,” said Yang, a member of the Cornell Board of Trustees and Cornell University Council, in a statement.

This isn’t the first time she’s given back to her alma mater for conservation initiatives. In 2021, Yang donated $24 million to Cornell’s bioacoustics center, which supports ecosystem health by studying how animal sounds are produced and transmitted in nature.

The wide-ranging philanthropy of Lisa Yang and Hock Tan

Yang’s most recent contribution to Cornell follows on the heels of another major educational gift. In January, she established the K. Lisa Yang Global Engineering and Research Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a $28 million donation. The center, which researches the production of technology for resource-constrained communities, will join an assemblage of six major research centers at MIT known as the Yang Tang Collective.

The interlinked centers have received a total of $200 million from Yang, who worked at the First Boston Corporation and Lehman Brothers, and her husband Hock Tan, the CEO of semiconductor and infrastructure technology company Broadcom. They include dedicated research centers for molecular therapeutics in neuroscience, integrative computational science, bionics and the study of the relationship between the brain and other organ systems.

The philanthropic couple, who have two children on the autism spectrum, have also directed charitable contributions toward research and advocacy regarding physical and cognitive disabilities. The first center of the Yang Tang Collective was established in 2017 when Yang and Tan gave MIT $20 million to establish an institute dedicated to autism research.

They launched a similar autism research center at Harvard Medical School in 2019 with a $20 million donation. And with a $10 million contribution, the duo in 2015 were the lead donors for Cornell’s Employment and Disability Institute. The institute, which has since been named after Yang and Tan, focuses on advancing community and workforce opportunities for people with disabilities.

Philanthropist Lisa Yang Gives Cornell $35M for Conservation Education