The 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.