Milstein family honored at building naming ceremony

May 26, 2007

Cornell University and the College of Architecture, Art, and Planning formally recognized major donors Paul and Irma Milstein and their family at a May 24 naming ceremony for Paul Milstein Hall, the planned new building for AAP.

The ceremony, in the John Hartell Gallery in Sibley Hall and outdoors on the Arts Quad, included a tribute by trustee emeritus Howard Milstein '73 to his father, and comments by President David Skorton, Presidents Emeriti Hunter R. Rawlings and Frank H.T. Rhodes, and AAP Dean Mohsen Mostafavi. 

"The construction of Paul Milstein Hall marks a new era for Cornell, one in which architects, artists, and planners will collaborate in exciting new ways, and in which the arts and humanities will move to a new level of excellence within our university," Skorton said. "With this building, we celebrate the Milstein family's vision and the profound impact their support will have on the academic and cultural life of the campus for generations to come." 

Plans for Paul Milstein Hall were unveiled in September 2006 by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Rem Koolhaas and his partners in the Rotterdam-based Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA). The more than $40 million project is expected to break ground in 2008, although construction is subject to municipal approvals. 

Milstein Hall will help the college encourage interdisciplinary collaboration by providing at least 43,000 feet of additional space, including a lecture hall, studios, and exhibition spaces. 

"The gift in honor of Paul Milstein is undoubtedly a transformative gift for our college, because of the way our students will be able to collaborate in the future," Mostafavi said. 

Irma Milstein, a Cornell parent, committed $10 million to Cornell in 1999 for a building creating a distinctive gateway to the campus. At the time, Irma and Paul's son Howard was active on the Cornell Board of Trustees.

Howard is chairman, president, and CEO of New York Private Bank and Trust. He studied economics in Cornell's College of Arts and Sciences, served as a trustee from 1995 to 2003, and currently is a Presidential Councillor at Cornell and sits on the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College. 

The Milstein family's fortune comes in large part from banking and real estate ventures in New York City. The family's holdings include Emigrant Savings Bank, New York's fourth-largest savings bank. As partners in Milstein Properties, Paul Milstein and sons Howard and Edward brought new development, including hotels and luxury housing, to once-underappreciated areas of the city, such as Battery Park, Murray Hill, the Lincoln Center area, Hell's Kitchen, and East 96th Street. 

"It's been inspiring to witness the way in which Howard Milstein has been so keenly committed to the quality and the caliber of the architecture of the building that will honor his father," Mostafavi said. "His enthusiasm for the architecture of OMA and his desire to have a building of international note on campus has also set a standard -- it's given us a very clear goal in terms of the conditions and qualities the building has to achieve." 

"It's also fitting that a family that both believed and invested so much in architecture as an indispensable part of urban development should be associated with the college," Mostafavi said. "Their vision in identifying opportunities in New York City, and the extraordinary commitment that was necessary to make such large-scale projects a reality, is in itself a strong argument for the need for collaboration between real estate development, urban planning, and architecture." 

The Milsteins are among Cornell's major benefactors. Over the years, they have made gifts for facilities at Weill Cornell, faculty fellowships for strategic hires, and scholarships in the College of Arts and Sciences. 

The family's philanthropic activities also have benefited the American Museum of Natural History, Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, and the New York Public Library. Three of Paul and Irma Milstein's four children attended Cornell -- Roslyn Milstein Meyer '71, Howard '73, and Barbara Milstein Zalaznick '76 -- as did son-in-law David Zalaznick '76, the current vice chairman of the Cornell Board of Trustees; and grandson Jeffrey Zalaznick '05. 

Samantha Zalaznick is a member of the Class of 2009, and Amy Zalaznick and Michael Milstein will enter Cornell in the fall. "The Milstein family has shown their deep commitment to Cornell University over many years, not only with their generous gifts, but also with their vision for the university and their service to it," said Provost Biddy Martin. "Milstein Hall, which is named in Paul's honor, will help enhance collaboration in the arts and architecture and provide the campus with a signature building for those collaborations."

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