Fund Raising

$150-Million Gift to Stony Brook Is a Record for Any SUNY Campus

December 13, 2011

In one of the largest gifts ever to a public institution of higher education, the State University of New York at Stony Brook will announce on Wednesday a donation of $150-million from a foundation established by a former professor turned financier and his wife.

The donors are the billionaire hedge-fund manager James H. Simons, who was chair of the mathematics department at Stony Brook from 1968 to 1976, and his wife, Marilyn, an alumna of Stony Brook.

The gift, to be paid over seven years, is the largest ever for Stony Brook and for any individual campus in the State University of New York system, SUNY said in a news release. It ties for the seventh largest gift received by any public university, according to The Chronicle's database on Major Private Gifts to Higher Education, which goes back to the late 1960s.

The gift is not the Simonses' first to Stony Brook. Through their foundation, they gave the university $60-million in 2008, and nearly $40-million before that.

Mr. Simons has also shown his support for the university in recent years by joining those pushing New York lawmakersto give SUNY campuses more freedom as a way of maintaining academic quality even as state support shrinks, according to an article in The New York Times. He credited the passage of tuition legislation this year as a factor in the decision to go ahead with the gift. There wouldn't have been any reason to support a university that "the state was backing away from," he told The Times.

Medical sciences will benefit most from the gift, which will support research at Stony Brook's health-sciences campus and help pay for a new center dedicated to translational research, which seeks to speed the conversion of basic scientific discoveries into new drugs and medical devices that can be used to diagnose and treat diseases. The money will also support new endowed professorships in all academic disciplines and recruit and support top-level graduate students.

Mr. Simons retired in 2009 as chief executive of the investment-management firm Renaissance Technologies, which he founded in 1982. He earned his bachelor's in mathematics at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his Ph.D. in mathematics at the University of California at Berkeley.

He is also the founder and chairman of Math for America, a nonprofit organization that seeks to improve mathematics education in the public schools through programs that include training and supporting highly qualified teachers.

Among other major philanthropic efforts, the Simons Foundation last year joined the foundation of another philanthropist, Charles Simonyi, in giving a combined $100-million to the Institute for Advanced Study, in Princeton, N.J.