A Northern Virginia real estate developer has pledged $5 million to endow a joint academic venture between George Mason University and the Smithsonian Institution at a conservation complex in Front Royal.

The gift from Gerald “Jerry” T. Halpin, announced this week, will support scholarships, curriculum and research at the Smithsonian-Mason School of Conservation.

The school has a distinctive mission: students can live for a semester on the Front Royal campus, according to a news release, while studying endangered species and ecosystems with top experts from the university and the Smithsonian. A residential complex there will house 120 students.