For more than half a century, Wally Broecker’s pioneering climate research and his legendary reputation as a revered mentor to generations of young scientists have been a magnet attracting exceptional students and post-docs to Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. On April 16th, the Columbia community celebrated the 50 years Broecker has spent teaching in the University’s Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences.
It was Wally’s work on climate science that first attracted Gary C. Comer, founder of the Lands’ End clothing-catalog company and an avid open ocean sailor, to Lamont-Doherty. In 2002 Comer had sailed the Northwest Passage and was shocked by the lack of ice in the ship’s path. When conducting preliminary research on global warming, Comer kept coming across Wally’s name. He wrote a letter to Wally and the two became fast friends. Mr. Comer went on to provide the principal gift for the construction of Lamont-Doherty’s new Gary C. Comer Geochemistry building, which is also generously supported by the Lenfest Foundation. To complete the final phase of the building’s fundraising campaign, the Institute is currently raising funds to build the world’s most sophisticated ultra clean laboratory in geochemistry.