October 26, 2007

Oops! Cold Spring starts to realize they just kicked to the curb their top fundraiser

From Newsday:
Fundraising questions after Watson's exit

Five days before an international uproar erupted over comments he had made to a British newspaper, James Watson smiled as camera shutters snapped at the groundbreaking for a multimillion-dollar renovation to the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory library.

"Watson raised that money; it was his effort," said Elof Carlson, a former Stony Brook University professor of biochemistry who attended the Oct. 12 ceremony. "He has been a major fundraiser for the institution, and he certainly had enormous skills in doing that."

Now, with Watson forced into early retirement for questioning Africans' intelligence, officials said it remains unclear whether he will continue his lesser known but immensely important role as the laboratory's fundraiser-in-chief.

"I don't think that's been discussed," said Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory. "This is a great institution. I hope that these events don't affect our fund-raising."

Science observers said Watson's ability to tap rich donors has been compromised.

"People who tend to support these kinds of charities are not going to embrace somebody who now has been branded as a racist," said Wesley J. Smith, a bioethicist at the [Creationist] Discovery Institute in Seattle.

Watson was named director of the laboratory's research projects in 1968. He is celebrated for transforming it from a respectable but sleepy research campus into a prestigious international center for genetic science. His knack for finding the money to pay top talent was key, said Watson biographer Victor McElheny.

When Watson was named president in 1994, the laboratory was raising less than $1 million a year from private donors, financial statements show. By 2006, donors gave more than $43 million.

Those private donations have helped the lab build new buildings and expand its endowment from nothing when Watson took over as director in 1968 to $129 million last year.

"A lot of it is attributable to [Watson]," said Stillman, who added that Watson will keep his home and office at the lab.

Watson appealed to donors with disarming honesty, visible passion and a rumpled unpretentiousness, McElheny said. In the late 1970s, he persuaded Charles Robertson, widower of A&P grocery chain heiress Marie Hartford, to give $8 million to Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory to bankroll unproven young scientists.

"It was the most precious gift in the history of the laboratory, and Watson swung it," McElheny said.

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Cold Srpings is in a difficult position. Watson's remarks may have seriously hurt his fund raising abilities and he may not have been that effective going forward.

The doner elite find such public utterances distasteful and go to great public show to distance them and their corporate connections from what is considered low-brow social commentary (irrevelent of truth).

On the otherhand, it doesn't look like they have anyone queued up to take over. Still, any delay in responding to Watson's remarks until a successor was located could be interpreted as a coldly calculated move.

Has fallen in with the wrong crowd said...

How odd that a Bioethecist from Discovery Insititute was quoted. I don't have any particular interpretation in mind, but it is certainly an odd choice. Perhaps they had trouble finding legitimate scientists to speak ill of Dr. Watson.

David said...

[S]aid Bruce Stillman, president of Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory[:] "This is a great institution. I hope that these events don't affect our fund-raising."

It WAS a great institution. Much of its greatness just left the building.

What idiots don't understand are the roots of a value.

Examples:

- Wastrels up to their eyeballs in debt to maintain a wealthy front believe that the front is identical to wealth. ("Rich people drive Cadillacs...so if I swing a Caddy on the never-never plan, THEN I'M RICH TOO").

- Kreationists believe that a "respectable scientist" is a degreed person who looks and sounds like a scientist. ("I have a doctorate, I use three-syllable words, and I speak in moderate tones. I'm a scientist. WHY WON'T THE MATERIALIST DEVILS ACCEPT ME?")

- The US Treasury believes money is not more than an arbitrary symbol. Therefore, printing more dollars means creating more wealth (or creating more economic activity leading to more wealth) - right? ("People won't invest in business because they're afraid of losing their shirt? No problem! IF WE LOWER RATES AND RUN THE PRINTING PRESSES 24/7, EVERYBODY WILL BE ON THE WAY TO RICHES. The country will be FLOODED with wealth!")

- The old Southern family with the grand name sees the famous patriarch die, broke. But they are still a great family whom everyone will bow and scrape before. You see, though penniless, they have that NAME...

- The pig digging in mud for acorns digs up the roots of the acorn tree, killing it - then he wonders why there are no more acorns. ("Must be the will of God...changing times...Laffer Curve...c'est la vie...snort!")

In the "lab's" [sic] case, the attitude seems to be:

"We are a great institution because we have a building and a payroll and people respect us. Yes, one of our personnel left. But we are the same institution."

No you ain't. The roots are gone.

Jack said...

Any scientific institution that allows PC to trump science deserves to dry up and blow away. Good riddance Cold Spring.

Klint Ogden said...

Wesley J. Smith, a bioethicist at the [Creationist] Discovery Institute in Seattle...

Steve, why exactly did you feel the need to append the Creationist label to the Discovery Institute? I checked that it wasn't in the Newsday article.

Peewee said...

If you search Google for "Discovery Institute" you can find many pages telling you it is a Creationist right-wing think tank.

David said...

Correction: for "US Treasury" substitute "Federal Reserve." Actually substitute the entire US government (I wish!).

Men's Groups - Care, Feeding (and starting) said...

While I certainly don't want to any support for the views/prejudices represented by Dr. Watson's remarks... I do want to offer a couple of thoughts.

Considering the enormous contribution that the discovery of the "Double Helix" - the structure of DNA represents to science and medicine, which will effect all of us, and recognizing the age of Dr. Watson.... I think the "press" and the public could have cut the man a bit more slack.

That he should be tarred and feathered by a single sentence is very sad. His immediate dismissal from his position as head of Cold Spring Harbor Labs - which he singlehandedly raised from financial disaster to a leading institution in the world for genetics has been forgotten.

It does bring to the fore the irrational sensitivity of the
institution to the "race" issue. CSHL's played a significant role in the eugenics movement in the 1930's... something the organization would prefer to have buried... along, apparently, with their former Director.

Escuerd said...

has fallen in with:
I find it odd that they used someone from the Discovery Institute also. The guy wasn't strictly badmouthing Watson, though. He really has been "branded a racist" in the minds of many and this may affect his fund-raising abilities.

Klint Ogden:
I'd have to guess because it actually is a creationist organization.

Klint said...

I know what the Discovery Institute is but I'm asking why Steve felt the need to point it out.

anony-mouse said...

Remember how Watson kicked scientists off their benches when they turned 40? Watson was about to turn 80, his longevity as a fundraiser in doubt.

I think Watson knew what he was doing, knew what he was saying (both times) and knew what the consequences would be. I think he wanted to retire with a bit of excitement (beats a boring retirement party)

Anonymous said...

"People who tend to support these kinds of charities are not going to embrace somebody who now has been branded as a racist," said Wesley J. Smith, a bioethicist at the [Creationist] Discovery Institute in Seattle.

...in other words, people of this ilk won't support someone who pursues pure science, even if the ugliness of the result that challenges their worldview is eventually proven false. 2+2=5 indeed.

Neil Craig said...

"Steve, why exactly did you feel the need to append the Creationist label to the Discovery Institute? I checked that it wasn't in the Newsday article."

Presumably because when the person is discussing the credibility of a scientist it is relevant that he is, or is linked to, creationists.

More interesting is why did Newsday decide not to mention it?

Men's Groups - Care, Feeding (and starting) said...

Everyone knows the DISCOVERY INSTITUTE has some of the finest scientific minds associated with it, don't we? :)

Ullathorne said...

Presumably because when the person is discussing the credibility of a scientist it is relevant that he is, or is linked to, creationists.

I don't see that he was discussing Watson's credibility. His opinion, to the effect that charitable donors tend to steer clear of controversial institutions was hardly objectionable.

I suspect that Steve's problem with creationism, in general, or the Discovery Institute, in particular, is of a more personal nature.