State Supreme Court Justice John Ellis issued the ruling Tuesday.
Cathy Dove, president of the college, had pushed for the name change in order secure a $20 million gift from Weill, a wealthy philanthropist who once served as chairwoman of the college’s board of trustees.
Many of the college’s alumni vehemently opposed the name change, but the judge did not allow a group of alumni, led by Scott Van Laer, to join the lawsuit.
“We are so pleased in the decision and that the court carefully considered the college’s petition. It is now time for the entire college community, those who opposed and those who supported the name change, to come together and support the college in the way only Smitties can,” Van Laer said Wednesday.
Dove posted an announcement on the college’s website: “Yesterday, the New York State Supreme Court in Franklin County denied our petition to add Joan Weill’s name alongside that of the founding family. While we are disappointed in the court’s decision, the Board of Trustees and I truly appreciate the enduring connection our people feel to the college and our traditions. We look forward to working with faculty, staff, students, alumni and other stakeholders as we address the challenges that we along with many other colleges face in this environment, consider our options and shape our future.”
The college is named after Paul Smith, a hotelier and entrepreneur. His son established the college in his honor and stipulated in his will that it be “forever known as Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences.” The college argued that it needed the $20 million to ensure its financial security.
In his decision, Ellis said the college failed to demonstrate that the name change–and the money that would come with it–is necessary ensure the school’s survival. “The financial records before the Court reflect the College’s fiscal problems are recent,” the judge wrote, adding that the college’s arguments were speculative.
The library and student center at the college are already named after Weill. She is married to Sanford Weill, the retired CEO of Citigroup. It is unclear whether she will withdraw the $20 million offer.
Click the link below to read the judge’s decision.