A New Mexico couple have provided the Santa Fe Institute with a $2.5 million endowment — one of the organization’s largest gifts — to expand its education and outreach programs.
The gift from Ian and Sonnet McKinnon, both native to New Mexico, will support mentorships, summer schools, after-school programs and other education projects coordinated by the Santa Fe Institute for middle-schoolers, high-schoolers and college students.
One of the programs, Project GUTS (Growing Up Thinking Scientifically), recently won a national award for after-school education.
“With this gift we can bring our wide-ranging expertise to thousands of complexity enthusiasts and learners in New Mexico and beyond,” Santa Fe Institute President Jerry Sabloff said in a statement. “We are extremely grateful to the McKinnons for their confidence in and support for our science and education programs.”
The Santa Fe Institute is a not-for-profit educational and research organization that brings together scientists from around the world in various disciplines to work on complex questions and problems. The funding will allow the institute to continue and to expand its public education programs. Sabloff said the endowment also will go toward the institute’s goal of raising $100 million in donations by 2024.
In a statement, Ian McKinnon, a Santa Fe Institute trustee and longtime supporter, said, “We are honored to partner with you in helping to take SFI to the next level.”
It isn’t the first philanthropic gesture by the McKinnons to their home state. The couple, who now live part time in Connecticut, recently gave $7.3 million to The University of New Mexico for the Anderson School of Management, The Pit and the school’s tennis complex. Sonnet McKinnon is a graduate of the Anderson School.
The McKinnons also gave $10 million to Albuquerque Academy in 2013. Both McKinnons graduated from the academy.
Ian McKinnon went on to earn a Master of Business Administration from Harvard. He was an investment banking analyst with Merrill Lynch & Co. before becoming a managing partner in Ziff Brothers Investments. He also is a founding partner of Sandia Holdings.
Sonnet Goodenough McKinnon and her father, Don Goodenough, formed a company to manufacture wine and beer tanks and brewing systems for commercial beer producers. In the last decade, she has committed time and resources to mentoring children who are the first in their families to attend college.
Sabloff said the McKinnons want to support education in New Mexico and were familiar with the institute’s successful programs, like GUTS. The after-school and teacher training program was offered in just four Northern New Mexico middle schools a few years ago and has grown to 25 schools. Now a Seattle nonprofit plans to take the initiative to schools nationwide.
“A lot of studies indicate that in order to get kids engaged in science and math, high school is too late,” Sabloff said. “You must start in middle school, if not earlier.”
“New Mexico should have a terrific science and math pipeline out of high school and college,” Sabloff said. “It is not as strong as it should be.”
In recognition of the couple’s gift, the Santa Fe Institute has added the McKinnon name to the position of vice president for education and outreach.
Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.