Ann and John Doerr donate $50M to develop new leaders at Rice University

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B.J. Almond
713-348-6770
balmond@rice.edu

Ann and John Doerr donate $50M to develop new leaders at Rice University
Leadership expert from Yale and West Point will head new institute funded by largest gift in school’s history

HOUSTON — (May 14, 2015) — With a $50 million gift from venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann, through their private family foundation, Rice University is planning an unconventional approach to developing students into leaders. Retired Brig. Gen. Tom Kolditz, who has headed leadership training at Yale and West Point, will direct the Doerr Institute for New Leaders to maximize the leadership capabilities of all students at Rice.

“We couldn’t be more grateful to Rice alumni Ann and John Doerr for this extremely generous support of their alma mater,” said Rice President David Leebron. “By donating the largest single gift in the university’s history and dedicating it to leadership education, the Doerrs will enable Rice to be the front-runner in empowering students with the skills, training and confidence to make a true difference in the world.”

The Doerr Institute for New Leaders will offer each student an innovative combination of proven, timeless techniques together with modern, next-generation practices. The strengths of each student will be assessed and their potential will be developed in a four-year comprehensive, custom-made plan of hands-on, real-world experience and guidance from personal coaches.

John Doerr, who has partnered with iconic entrepreneurs to help build such highly successful companies as Amazon and Google, said he considers leadership at Rice to be a wise investment in the future.

“Millennials want to see the big picture and their role in it, get frequent feedback and be empowered — not micromanaged,” he said. “Now more than ever, the pressing problems of our nation and world need great teams and great leaders. Ideas are easy; executing those ideas with a well-led team is paramount. New leaders must be inclusive, self-aware and great listeners who are attuned to the needs of their teams.”

A hallmark of the Doerr Institute is its focus on cultural and global diversity and inclusion. “Tomorrow’s leaders will be more diverse, adapting varied styles to serve diverse teams, tackling challenges in even more diverse communities,” John said.

Ann Doerr said previous contributions to the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership (RCEL) have been successful with leadership training of engineering students. For example, a large number of Engineers Without Borders project team leaders are RCEL students who have done work in Nicaragua and Honduras. Ann and John would like all students to have the opportunity to become successful leaders regardless of their major.

“Throughout our lives and on any given day we are both leaders and followers,” Ann said. “The Doerr Institute’s goal is to train each student to become an effective leader. A true leader needs the skills to evaluate the goal, understand its validity, succinctly articulate it and then lead with deep compassion, moral integrity and empathy.”

The recruitment of Kolditz as director of the new institute resulted from an international search that has been underway for a year. Kolditz is currently a professor in the practice of leadership and management and directs the Leadership Development Program at the Yale School of Management. He has more than 25 years of experience in leadership roles, including 12 years leading the Department of Behavioral Sciences and Leadership at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and two years as a leadership and human resources policy analyst in the Pentagon. Kolditz is author of “In Extremis Leadership: Leading As If Your Life Depended On It,” which is based on interviews with 120 leaders and followers.

Kolditz said leader development at Rice will have three measurable goals: to deliver new knowledge and skills, to accelerate the lessons learned from experience and to increase reflection, self-awareness and leadership identity among students.

“Most of a person’s capacity to lead is learned,” Kolditz said. Seventy percent of that is gained through experience, not classrooms, so the opportunities to lead teams at Rice are essential to the success of the Doerr Institute, he said. Self-reflection also has a significant impact, so it’s important that students are matched with advisers who can coach and direct them to ask thoughtful, analytical questions about their goals and performance, he said.

Leaders will be developed with technology both from existing educational software and apps as well as from the design of original digital tools.

Kolditz cautioned against having one leadership style. “We want to give students the ability to be effective wherever they are going to lead,” he said. “Style suggests a consistent way to behave, but we want to teach students to be adaptive in the way they lead people. A failure to lead is a failure to adapt.”

The real-world leadership opportunities provided by this new effort are an integral component of Rice’s Initiative for Students, a three-year volunteer engagement and fundraising effort creating opportunities for hands-on experiences that allow students to apply their analytical, entrepreneurial and leadership skills. Rice students have indicated that they highly value this type of learning, and the university has made such experiences for students a priority.

“Higher education today is in a period of great transformation,” Leebron said. “Residential college and graduate education must be life-changing.” He noted that the Doerr Institute will say to every student at Rice, “You are here because you can be a great leader, and our job is to make sure your Rice experience enables you to fully realize that potential.”

Kolditz said that after four years in the Doerr Institute for New Leaders, Rice students should have the knowledge and skills to continue to develop their leadership abilities after graduation. Rice will survey graduates and follow their progress and use that information to fine-tune the institute in the years ahead.

By collecting data from Rice and eventually from across the country, the Doerr Institute will become the source for identifying the most effective practices in innovative education for new leaders, Kolditz said.

The Doerrs know from personal experience how a Rice education, strong leadership and thoughtful choices can have a positive impact globally.

Both Ann and John have bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Rice.

Ann started her career as an engineer and held various engineering and management positions at Intel, Silicon Compilers and Tandem Computers. As a trained engineer she joined the board of the Environmental Defense Fund because it takes a comprehensive approach to solve complex environmental problems. She is currently chair of Khan Academy, whose mission is “to provide a free, world-class education for anyone, anywhere” through online instructional videos and practice exercises. Each month over 15 million learners at Khan Academy study at their own pace on a wide variety of subjects.

John, who also has an MBA from Harvard, started his career as an engineer, marketer and top-ranked sales executive for Intel. Currently a general partner of the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, he has been ranked No. 1 on Forbes Magazine’s Midas List for his ability to identify entrepreneurs whose ideas later became commercially successful, most recently Twitter, Coursera and Uber. Ventures backed by Doerr have created over 200,000 new jobs. He co-founded NewSchools Venture Fund, which invests in nonprofit and for-profit organizations that improve public education. John gave the commencement address at Rice in 2007.

The Doerrs have donated millions of dollars to educational institutions across the country through their private family foundation, including $15 million for the Rice Center for Engineering Leadership in 2009. When they made that gift to Rice, Ann noted that the “increasingly complex and global world demands great, ethical leaders,” and John said, “It takes great leaders (and teams) to change the world. They’re the only thing that ever has.”

“Bravo to Ann and John Doerr for their devotion to their alma mater and their tremendous gift to the university for leadership development,” said Retired Gen. Colin Powell, who will present the commencement address at Rice on May 16. “The Doerr Institute will provide Rice University students a unique opportunity to develop their leadership skills and be prepared and eager to take on the challenges facing them when they graduate.”

With an enrollment of approximately 3,900 undergraduate students and 2,600 graduate students, Rice will be graduating more than 1,000 new leaders each year, which should have a significant cumulative impact on the world as time progresses, Kolditz said.

For more information on the Doerr Institute, visit http://doerrinstitute.rice.edu/.

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High-resolution IMAGES are available for download:

http://news.rice.edu/files/2015/05/John-and-Ann-Doerr.jpg
CAPTION: John and Ann Doerr
PHOTO CREDIT: Lisa DeNeffe

http://news.rice.edu/files/2015/05/Tom-Kolditz-headshot.jpg
CAPTION: Tom Kolditz
PHOTO CREDIT: Yale University

Located on a 300-acre forested campus in Houston, Rice University is consistently ranked among the nation’s top 20 universities by U.S. News & World Report. Rice has highly respected schools of Architecture, Business, Continuing Studies, Engineering, Humanities, Music, Natural Sciences and Social Sciences and is home to the Baker Institute for Public Policy. With 3,888 undergraduates and 2,610 graduate students, Rice’s undergraduate student-to-faculty ratio is 6-to-1. Its residential college system builds close-knit communities and lifelong friendships, just one reason why Rice is ranked among some of the top schools for best quality of life by the Princeton Review and for best value among private universities by Kiplinger’s Personal Finance. To read “What they’re saying about Rice,” go to http://tinyurl.com/AboutRiceU.

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About B.J. Almond

B.J. Almond is senior director of news and media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.