Friday, July 17, 2015

Rich Donor Seeks To Rename Paul Smith’s College

Joan_and_Sanford_WeillThe Board of Trustees of Paul Smith’s College have announced that it is seeking approval from the New York State Board of Regents and the New York State court to rename the college by adding the name of a wealthy donor who has promised $20 million dollars. If approved the new name would be Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College.

“Should the naming honor be approved, the Weills have pledged a $20 million gift to transform the financial future of the private, four-year college and allow it to introduce its blend of traditional and experiential learning to a far broader array of prospective students and faculty worldwide,” a statement sent to the press said.

Over the last 20 years, Joan Weill and her husband, the retired chairman and CEO of CitiGroup Sanford Weill, have given Paul Smith’s nearly $10 million and have helped the college raise almost $30 million from other donors.

“Weill has been the most influential volunteer leaders in the college’s 80-year history,” the press announcement said, “serving on the Board of Trustees for 19 years, including five as chair (2005-2010). As a board member, she spearheaded the conversion of Paul Smith’s to a four-year institution, the only such institution in New York’s Adirondack Park. She is an emeritus trustee today and remains active in college fundraising.”

“Eighty years ago, this proud institution rose from the forests of the Adirondacks through the leadership and generosity of a family who not only valued education, but wanted to make it available to all who seek it,” said E. Phillip Saunders, chairman of the board. “Over the past 20 years, this tradition of distinguished leadership and service has been embraced and carried on by yet another family. Our Board of Trustees thinks it only fitting that the names of the two most important families in the history of the college — the Smiths and the Weills — should be forever linked to the school and the region they love.”

Cathy S. Dove, president of Paul Smith’s college, said: “Joan Weill’s greatest gift to us has been her spirit, her transformative leadership, her confidence and her determination that the opportunities offered at this college through our innovative blend of experiential and traditional education should be made available to as many students as possible.

“Though separated by decades, the Smith and Weill families’ unique leadership and service have been pivotal for this institution. As visionaries, they challenged us to grow, modernize and expand our programs, services and facilities, and broaden our reach. The Smith family guided our early years; in many ways, Mrs. Weill is a founder of this college in the modern era.”

“The Weills’ support positions Paul Smith’s to share our passion for learning, our tradition of academic excellence and our excitement for the future with students across the globe in ways never before possible,” Dove said. “Their gift will play a critically important role in our future as we navigate the fiscal challenges so common to academic institutions today, while the prominence and respect of the Weill name will help to elevate our college’s profile around the world and open doors to new opportunities for growth and academic achievement.”

Weill is a graduate of Brooklyn College and chair emeriti of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Foundation, chair of the Women’s Health Symposium at New York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center, and co-chair of the Advisory Committee of the Weill Music Institute at Carnegie Hall.

The Weills are involved with a number of not for profit organizations, including Weill Cornell Medical College, Cornell University, Carnegie Hall and its Weill Music Institute, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, National Academy Foundation, Weill Hall and the Green Music Center at Sonoma State University, University of California – San Francisco, University of California – Davis, Lang Lang International Music Foundation, the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy at the University of Michigan, and Rambam Medical Center in Haifa, Israel. Joan and Sanford Weill received the 2009 Carnegie Medal of Philanthropy Award in recognition of their philanthropic efforts, and in 2012 Sanford Weill was elected a member of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences and in 2015 received an honorary doctorate from the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

Paul Smith’s College was founded in 1946 and is the only bachelor’s degree-granting institution of higher education in the Adirondacks.

Photo: Joan and Sanford Weill at the opening night of the 2009 Metropolitan Opera’s Tosca. Photo courtesy Wikipedia user David Shankbone.

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12 Responses

  1. Paul says:

    Doubles the schools endowment. Wow. She deserves her name on it. Making it contingent on the donation is that accurate? I don’t like that. It is the school’s choice so fine.

  2. David K says:

    The Weill’s generous philanthropy is legendary. Why not accept their gift with a minor string or should I say thread attached? It happens at much bigger universities all the time, maybe not the whole school changing it’s name, but at several colleges, even endowed football coaching positions!

    The Eli Broad College of Business @ Michigan State
    The Ross School of Business @ Michigan
    The Mendoza College of Business @ Notre Dame
    The Dell Medical School @ University of Texas, Austin

  3. UNHOLY says:

    What an ego ….here is some cash and now put my name on it …and people bend over and take it …..typical America –if you’re rich you can buy anything ….even a historic college …..Paul Smith means something in the Adirondacks ….Weills means you have deep pockets because you figured out how to play “the game” well. Must suck to have all this money —-getting old —-and have to get my name on as much stuff so people remember me when i kick the bucket.

  4. roamin with broman says:

    I do not like this. Name a building after her, but not the whole school……

  5. Randy says:

    This just rubs me the wrong way. It’s great the Weill’s are doing all this work and philanthropy, but it reminds me of the days of the robber barons when JP Morgan, Vanderbilt, Pruyn and others good use their fortunes to buy up land at tax sales and create their own little worlds in the Adirondaks. They also did a lot of good in conserving the land, but at the expense of those who used the land for their own sustinence and survival. Maybe the Weill’s could just buy the town of Paul Smiths and change the name to the own. History does have a way of repeating itself, and here we go again, with the “haves” firmly putting their names all over the place. I like the idea of naming a building, or some of the property but not the whole college. Besides, it just sounds a bit weird to me…….Imaging what the school cheer would sound like!

  6. M.P. Heller says:

    There are several large buildings there already named for the Weill’s. The library and student center to name a couple.

    The library project destroyed the student quad and ruined the viewshed of Lower St. Regis Lake. The student center pollutes the lake with untreated runoff year round. A pretty dismal record for an environmental school.

    Stop drinking from the poisoned chalice PSC. The ego of Joan Weill is disgusting. The hubris of the school administration is even more so. Honor and protect your past. Selling out to the highest bidder is very disrespectful to your alumni and the memories of Paul, Lydia Martin, and Phelps Smith.

    Michael Heller
    Class of 2003

  7. Bob Meyer says:

    i hear, respect and agree with the voices of discomfort and distaste over the “money gets you recognition” aspect of this story.
    i only hope some of these comments are not connected to the tired “downstate/outsider” syndrome or worse yet, the Antisemitism that unfortunately still occasionally manifests itself in our beloved Adirondack Park.

  8. Wally Elton says:

    Interesting perspectives. I don’t understand the ego part, either. At the sane time, I’m on the board of a nonprofit that runs a multi-town park in Schuylerville (Hudson Crossing Park) and if she gives us a fraction of that amount, we’ll name whatever she wants after her!

  9. Gary F. Heurich says:

    My hat’s off to the Weills and their generosity. They clearly have a long history with Paul Smith’s College of personally supporting, and encouraging others to support, such a special and important place.

    Thank you Joan and Sanford Weill for ensuring the future of Paul Smith’s. The name of which institution long ago became a proud and important tradition in the Adirondacks and beyond.

    But, while admiring the Weills’ eleemosynary act, and meaning no disrespect to them or slight against this particular act of charity, I wish there were more true philanthropy today.

    There is nothing wrong with what the Weills are doing. Quite the contrary. But, reading about this generous act, it could be anyone’s generous act, just happened to be the one that impelled me to go public with this lament.

    I define true philanthropy as charitable acts, regardless of size, for which no one knows who is the donor. The reward is in the satisfaction of doing something just for its own sake.

    Imagine the extraordinary example, in this time of excessive greed, unparalleled wealth, and screwed up senses of entitlement, that an anonymous gift of such magnitude would set.

    Take, for example, Chuck Feeney, a self-made billionaire, once the 23rd richest person alive, who is practically an unknown public figure.

    His foundation, Atlantic Philanthropies, is intentionally on its way toward becoming the largest ever foundation to give away all its money and shut down. The genesis of which foundation was Feeney’s anonymous gift 30 years ago of almost his entire fortune of what was then valued at $4 billion.

    Charity in any form is critical and laudable, and donors should feel gratitude in whatever form it may take, but “truer philanthropy” is truly powerful.

    • Bill Quinlivan says:

      Sometimes fortune creates unfortunate mistakes. Sorry, but true philanthropy does not come with a personal naming string attached. It is pretty tasteless and tarnished. In my opinion the donation should be given and if the school wishes to honor the person donating, then they should do so, but it should not be made a part of the offering; that is simply classless.

      On another issue, there are no “self made” people. They all are subjects of good fortune, being in the right place at the right time and having all the benefits of the society and communities that they (and we) live in that helps pave the way for their good fortune and success. Let’s face it, in this country as you get wealthier, the system tends to grease the skids for you. No, there are no “self made” people.

      The donation should be made without strings, otherwise it is not philanthropy; it is self serving, classless and pretty sad to have to buy your name onto a school. Today, too many people believe that their money gives them the right to “buy” anything including our government.

  10. Bob Hedgeman says:

    A gift is not a gift when something is requested or expected in return.

  11. Richard says:

    I appreciate that they donate so much but changing the colleges name is rather disgusting. Reeks of self-aggrandizement at the highest level. Put up a statue or better yet, donate some art that speaks to the best of the Adirondacks. Your name will live.

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