A jet pilot, entrepreneur, venture capitalist, and philanthropist, Roger Burnell ’66 describes himself simply as a “student of life.” He dives headlong into new adventures—from training his family’s golden retriever for various dog show competitions, to exploring the field of wireless precision medicine, his latest intellectual passion.
In 2017, Burnell brought his zest for life and learning to a new level: Through a $5 million gift commitment, he and his wife endowed the Roger and Joelle Burnell Chair in Integrated Health and Technology at Cornell Tech.
The gift crystallized a few of Burnell’s interests and aspirations: After creating a scholarship at Columbia University in 2001 in honor of his father, who was an alumnus, Burnell had been considering a similarly transformative gift to his own alma mater. In the past couple of years, he had also become an angel investor for biotechnology start-ups such as Rejuvenan, and he sought to make a complementary investment in academia, which he believes is a vital, symbiotic partner to industry. Based in Los Altos, California, but raised in Scarsdale, New York, Burnell also feels a “spiritual and genetic” connection to New York, and he was very eager to help advance the region’s own burgeoning version of Silicon Valley, where he sees Cornell Tech as the central driving force.