UC Berkeley News
Press Release

UC Berkeley Press Release

Richard Blum at signing of gift agreement Joining Richard Blum (center) at the University House signing of the $15 million gift agreement to fund the new Blum Center for Developing Economies are Donald McQuade (left), vice chancellor for university relations, and UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

Richard Blum gives $15 million to fund center to alleviate poverty

– University of California, Berkeley, Chancellor Robert J. Birgeneau announced today (Wednesday, April 19) a major new multidisciplinary campus initiative to improve the quality of life for impoverished people by helping them develop their full economic potential.

The Richard C. Blum Center
for Developing Economies
Video links:

Richard BlumRichard Blum: An "accident of geography" obligates us to help others

Dianne FeinsteinDianne Feinstein: A gift that produces "real action" can change the world

Rich LyonsRich Lyons: Berkeley students "are chomping at the bit" to get involved

Children helped by American Himalayan FoundationUCTV: Founding and mission of the Blum Center

Download Real Player

• Q&A with Richard Blum
• Blum Center website
• Blum Center board of trustees

The Richard C. Blum Center for Developing Economies is being launched with a $15 million gift, which includes a $5 million challenge grant, from San Francisco financier, philanthropist and University of California regent Richard C. Blum. The center will tap the expertise and resources of the nation's top public teaching and research university to achieve significant — and financially sustainable — solutions to problems affecting the nearly 3 billion people in the world who are living on less than $2 a day.

"I believe UC Berkeley can have a singular effect in the fight to alleviate human suffering," said Blum. "If you look at the dangerous political divisions in today's world, you will find that most extremism has its roots in poverty and lack of education. We hope that our center will help train the next generation of leaders to be dedicated to alleviating poverty in the developing world.  Furthermore, the center plans to put together teams of students and faculty to work in specific areas abroad where UC's expertise could be applied."

The Blum Center will have two purposes: 1) to educate UC Berkeley students about the world of foreign assistance, its potential and challenges; and  2) to draw on UC Berkeley faculty expertise from a wide range of disciplines including governance and law, affordable technology, agriculture, health care services, infrastructure and general economic development.  It will also focus on encouraging and developing entrepreneurship.  It will draw on the expertise from faculty at other University of California campuses to put together teams to work on projects in the field.           

'I believe UC Berkeley can have a singular effect in the fight to alleviate human suffering'
-Richard C. Blum

Several initiatives will be launched within the center's first three years, all with a student service component.  Plans also call for the new center to offer courses in fall 2006, with the expectation that the curriculum will eventually lead to a certificate in the area of developing economies, or a major or minor.  Campus officials say there is every indication that the center's classes and initiatives will attract enthusiastic participation from both students and faculty, many of whom will be involved via in-country fieldwork.

An executive director for the center is being sought, and a physical location for the center is yet to be determined.

"We are grateful for the opportunity that Richard Blum is giving us through this most generous gift," said Birgeneau. "UC Berkeley is the ideal place to tackle these issues. Our rich tradition of activism and public service and the tremendous breadth of UC Berkeley's expertise and resources will allow us to partner with people in need to help them change their circumstances for the better. We can't imagine anyone better suited than Richard Blum to join us in this effort."

Dalai Lama, Richard Blum, Dianne Feinstein and Jimmy Carter
At the American Himalayan Foundation's annual dinner last November, the Dalai Lama (left) and former President Jimmy Carter (right) joined Blum and his wife, U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, at San Francisco's St. Francis Hotel. (John J. Moores photo, courtesy the American Himalayan Foundation)

Blum has been devoted to helping to solve the issue of poverty for three decades, with particular emphasis on investing in local communities to help them develop greater economic self-sufficiency. He founded the American Himalayan Foundation 25 years ago, which runs over 130 projects in the Himalayan region ranging from schools, health services, cultural preservation, forest restoration and small-scale economic development.

Blum also founded the Global Economy and Development Center at the Brookings Institution three years ago, and he has served on the board of trustees for the Atlanta-based Carter Center for many years. The Carter Center was established by former U.S. President Jimmy Carter to address issues of conflict resolution, health care in Africa and elsewhere, and world poverty in general.

Carter, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and former Secretary of State George Shultz, all close friends of Blum's, have agreed to serve as honorary trustees on the Blum Center's board of trustees.

"Richard Blum has been a friend of the Tibetan people for three decades," the Dalai Lama wrote in a recent letter to Blum. "I am delighted to know our message of kindness and compassion has taken a new practical dimension by the establishment of this new center at the University of California, Berkeley."

Said Carter in a prepared statement, "I believe this new center is a significant and innovative step forward in creating enhanced awareness about one of the world's most pressing problems."

Richard Blum and Chancellor Birgeneau, with the Campanile in the background
Chancellor Birgeneau (right) cited the campus's "rich tradition of activism and public service and the tremendous breadth of UC Berkeley's expertise and resources" in welcoming the establishment of the Blum Center. (Peg Skorpinski photo)

The Blum Center will be a unique, university-led model for fighting global poverty, according to Richard K. Lyons, UC Berkeley professor of finance and executive associate dean at the Haas School of Business, who is working with Blum on creation of the center. Lyons said the center's board of trustees will be chaired by Laura Tyson, former president of the Council of Economic Advisors in the Clinton administration, former dean of the Haas School of Business and current dean of the London School of Business.

"I am extremely pleased at how eager and responsive everyone — from the faculty to the deans to the chancellor — has been to make this center a reality," said Blum.

Blum earned his B.S. in 1958 and his M.B.A. in 1959 from UC Berkeley and also studied at the University of Vienna, Austria. He started his career in 1958 at the venerable investment firm of Sutro and Company and became the youngest partner in its 100-year-plus history. He then founded Blum Capital Partners, LP in 1975. He also co-founded Newbridge Capital, a pioneer investor in private equity in Asia, which today has six offices in Asia and is one of the major foreign investors in the region. He is also chairman of the board of CB Richard Ellis, Inc., the world's largest commercial real estate services company.

In 1994, the Haas School of Business named him Business Leader of the Year. He is also the founder and chairman of the American Himalayan Foundation, co-chair of the international council of trustees for The World Conference of Religions for Peace, is on the board of trustees of The Brookings Institution, The American Cancer Foundation and Glide Church AME in San Francisco, and is a member of the governing council for The Wilderness Society, as well as for numerous other public boards and non-profit organizations.

He is on the UC Board of Regents and currently is chairman of the board's Finance Committee.

In 1981, Blum led the first-ever attempt to scale Mount Everest's east face in Tibet.

He is married to U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). They have four children and five grandchildren. His passions include trekking, travel, running, skiing, Eastern cultures, politics and grandchildren.

For more information on the Blum Center, visit blumcenter.berkeley.edu.