Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Distance Learning or Bricks & Mortar?

Distance learning philanthropist Gerhard Andlinger donated $100 million for the Center for Energy and the Environment at Princeton University. Princeton just announced that construction will begin in 2012. A quick look at his bio reveals that the Austrian-born teenager first came to this country as the winner of an essay contest, studied economics and (prophetically) Arabic at Princeton, earned a Harvard MBA, and had an obviously profitable career that included stints with ITT plus his own leveraged buyout firm.

Andlinger must believe in distance learning because he endowed a professorship in distance learning at Cornell's medical school, officially known as the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Medical College of Cornell University.

Yet at Princeton he donated for bricks and mortar. When you think about it, that's no conflict. Medicine lends itself to distance learning. Energy research does not. One of the buildings designed by Tod Williams for the Andlinger Center will be built on bedrock three stories below ground to reduce vibrations.

My house is just blocks away from the proposed construction site, where the vibrations from the excavations will rival those from the rock bands at the dining clubs, just yards away on Prospect Street. Their thump thump thump echoes in my house behind closed doors. But though I'm not looking forward to the excavation, I have to admit the Andlinger complex will be beautiful.

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