April 5, 2024

What Do Animals Think and Feel? A Generous Gift to Establish DU’s Institute for Animal Sentience and Protection May Provide Answers

Robert Brinkmann’s love of animals led him to pursue veterinary medicine as a retiree — following a successful career as a Ph.D. planetary scientist at the Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA, and the Lunar Science Institute. While he never practiced as a vet, he volunteered his DVM knowledge at animal welfare organizations over the years and remains a licensed practitioner.

That love of animals is what also prompted Brinkmann to provide generous seed funding for DU’s newly formed Institute for Animal Sentience and Protection, whose aim is to expand the scientific understanding of the cognitive and emotional capabilities of non-human animals and advocate for their well-being. To keep operations thriving after startup, Dr. Brinkmann has pledged his entire estate to the Institute after his passing.

What motivated Robert Brinkmann’s gift to DU specifically was the work of Philip Tedeschi, founder and former executive director of the Institute for Human-Animal Connection and clinical professor at DU’s Graduate School of Social Work. Co-directed by Tedeschi and Justin Marceau, Brooks Institute Faculty Research Scholar of Animal Law and Policy and faculty director of the Animal Law Program at DU’s Sturm College of Law, the Institute will be a collaboration between GSSW and Sturm. Together, these efforts, bolstered by Brinkmann’s generosity, will have a lasting impact on the protection of animals. “Rescue and animal welfare organizations are great,” Brinkmann explained, “but I wanted to contribute to an effort that takes a longer-range view of animal well-being and encompasses the entire animal kingdom.” 

Mary Clark, DU’s Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor, observed that “Dr. Brinkmann’s gift is a significant and inspiring vote of confidence in DU’s capacity to pursue big ideas, to work seamlessly across disciplines and to advance the public good. I look forward to seeing the advancements in both scientific research and public awareness that flow from this promising and truly unique commitment.”