With the help of a $20 million anonymous donation, the university formally launched the Georgetown Environment Initiative Thursday afternoon.

The initiative aims to promote the interdisciplinary study of the environment across Georgetown’s main, medical and law campuses. Both it and the donation, which was given by an unnamed family affiliated with the university, were announced in an email from University President John J. DeGioia to the campus community Thursday.

According to Vice President for Advancement R. Bartley Moore, $15 million of the gift will be used to compensate and fund the research of three new faculty chairs in fields of environmental science. The remaining $5 million will fund an administrative center that will help coordinate and expand collaborative interdisciplinary research on the environment.

“That will advance one of the university’s principle strategic objects, which is to grow our capacity in sciences through additional investment in people and programs,” Moore said.

According to DeGioia’s email, the gift is the largest contribution made to Georgetown’s capital campaign, “For Generations to Come: The Campaign for Georgetown.” The campaign has raised $935 million — including the $20 million anonymous donation, which was given last month — since its launch in 2006.

“Apart from the great generosity of the gift, in a larger sense, what it means for Georgetown is we are demonstrating our … ability to join the strategic objectives of the institution with the philanthropic objectives of donors to achieve these sorts of significant investments in the growth of the university,” Moore said.

The expansion of Georgetown’s science faculty was one of the capital campaign’s primary goals.

Since 2009, a working group comprising faculty members from all three Georgetown campuses and led by department of biology professor Matthew Hamilton has been developing a plan to bolster the university’s capacity to conduct interdisciplinary environmental research. According to Moore, this group’s recommendations provided the basis for the initiative.

“The faculty … has been in the lead on this project,” he said.

Hamilton is now the chair of the environment initiative.

According to Moore, hiring the three new faculty chairs will take roughly three years, but the donation will be put to immediate use in the form of grants to fund research projects.

“We see this extraordinary gift as an opportunity to become a global leader in this increasingly important area,” DeGioia wrote in his email.

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