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April 2017 Letter to Friends of Caltech

April 28, 2017

Dear Friends of Caltech,

As part of Break Through: The Caltech Campaign, I have been crisscrossing the country, meeting with Caltech alumni and friends. It is a wonderful time for science and engineering, with major questions ripe for breakthroughs: Does life exist elsewhere in our solar system or on planets orbiting other suns? Can we elucidate the architecture of the human brain to reveal how we make decisions, to alleviate human suffering, and to inspire new approaches to computation? What are the quantum devices that will transform energy and cybersecurity and revolutionize technology in the century to come? It is the signature Caltech combination of fundamental science and technical prowess that positions the Institute to take a leading role in these major research efforts, to marshal the evidence and to pose the questions that will define new fields of inquiry.

The endeavors of the Caltech alums and friends I meet are emblematic of these qualities. The Institute's focus on problems that matter, its intensity, and its intellectual intimacy create a culture that defines those who pass through its portals and inspires those who share its values. For those who know us well, there is an urgency to the research questions that transcends the particular and influences our outlook on life. Together we share the opportunity to be part of history. 

At its heart, this is what the Break Through campaign is all about. It is a campaign about people who want to change the world. It is about those who are inspired by heady scientific and technological opportunities but know that progress is grounded in the efforts of individuals: scientists and engineers bouncing ideas off their colleagues and building new kinds of instruments to interrogate nature. Breakthroughs are not predictable, but they can be nucleated and nurtured and supported. They have emerged preferentially at Caltech because we make big bets on talented people who are fearless in attacking consequential problems. We provide them with generous and flexible resources, and we expect them to succeed.

This campaign about people, moreover, is a campaign for the long term. Deciphering the secrets of the universe and improving the human condition demand no less. Through gifts to endowment, we have the ability to support undergraduates, graduate students, postdocs, and faculty members, this century and next, influencing lives one by one for generations.

The large philanthropic investments that capture the headlines—and we have been fortunate to inspire three $100 million gifts already in the Break Through campaign—forever change an institution through the cohorts of researchers at every academic level who are empowered to seize new opportunities. Every level of investment in our students and faculty, the engines of the research enterprise, similarly drives progress. A single scholarship, fellowship, or professorship creates a cohort over time as it propagates from one academic generation to the next. We are grateful for your support as we work hand in hand to secure Caltech's and our world's future.


Thomas F. Rosenbaum