MIT Alumnus Donates $118M for Real Estate Lab

MIT has been gifted with a $118 million donation by alumnus and Hong Kong power real estate developer Samuel Tak Lee.

During Wednesday’s signing ceremony, MIT President L. Rafael Reif said “With this gift, Sam Lee aims to tap the transformative power of real estate to shape the built environment, and thereby to shape society and culture, to enrich our shared civic life, to increase our harmony with nature – in short, to make a significant positive impact on the world. As MIT strives to work for the betterment of humankind, Sam’s generosity dramatically increase our capacity to create and inspire far-reaching positive change. We are deeply grateful for the vision and partnership of the Lee family, and for the trust they have placed in MIT.”

Lee’s donation is one of the largest ever received by the prestigious university and will fund the Samuel Tak Lee MIT Real Estate Entrepreneurship Lab. The new lab will be centered in MIT’s Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the Center for Real Estate.

The lab is being referred to as a “think tank” and already has a wide net of topics to cover according to MIT’s website. Students able to study in the new lab will have the opportunity to focus on areas that include: development and urbanization, urban resilience and adaptation, land-use reform and codes, new construction materials and much more.

A portion of the donation will also aid in the funding of a fellowship program for students from the United States and other countries around the world with a specific focus on China. MIT said that the fellowship will focus on developing research and eventually translating the courses provided in the new lab into content for massive open online courses.

Research and the commitment to educating the future’s real estate developers is of utmost importance to the college according to Chancellor for Academic Advancement Eric Grimson. He says, “Real estate is inherently interdisciplinary, and so is the culture of MIT. Whether turning its attention to the role of real estate in fostering prosperity, the design of cities, or the consumption of energy, this new lab will be strengthened by the interactions with departments and programs across MIT.”

Lee’s generosity came from the drive to bring important factors facing many of today’s real estate developers to light and to aid in the creation of program that will incorporate everything from land reform to the every changing global economy into a study program.

“This is a period of tremendous change and opportunity for entrepreneurs in China and around the world. By cultivating a long-term perspective, real estate professionals can create even greater value for themselves and for society based on responsible, sustainable strategies. I am eager to connect ambitious, talented students with the skills and knowledge that will help them succeed,” says Lee.

Before becoming a successful real estate developer in Hong Kong, Lee earned two degrees from MIT. He received both a bachelor’s degree in 1962 and a master’s degree in 1964, both of which were in civil and environmental engineering.

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