By Alex H. Nagler
Despite a gloomy financial situation in Albany and the rest of the country, Stony Brook University announced that the drive to raise $300 million of financial capital by June has been reached ahead of schedule. The capital drive, the largest in the history of the State University of New York system, is still ongoing, but the goal of $300 million was broken when the University declared it had successfully raised $312 million. The project to raise the money, which began in 2002, showed quick success with the donation of the Charles B. Wang Center, valued at $52 million.
The money was raised under the independent entity of the Stony Brook Foundation through the drive “The Emergence of Stony Brook.” A mixture of alumni and “friends of Stony Brook” gave the money. None of the “friends” are alumni, though many have relations with the school. Such friends of Stony Brook include Drs. Jim and Marilyn Simons, who gave a lump total of $106 million to the school, over one-third of all donations. Dr. Jim Simons is the former chair of the Stony Brook Mathematics Department and current CEO of Renaissance Technology. The bulk of their gift is directed towards the creation of the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics and the endowment of chairs for professors and post-doctoral fellows.
Another multi-million dollar gift from former faculty comes from Drs. Henry and Marsha Laufer, who donated $10 million to create the Louis and Beatrice Laufer Center for Computational Biology and Genome Sciences. Dr. Henry Laufer is also a former Stony Brook mathematics professor and is Head Scientist at Renaissance Technology. Dr. Marsha Laufer is a speech pathologist and currently serves as the Chairwoman of the Brookhaven Democratic Party.
The university boasted success when it came to recruiting alumni to give smaller gifts. Richard L. Gelfond, CEO of IMAX Corporation and Chair of the Stony Brook Foundation Board of Trustees, claimed that one out of every five alumni made a donation, though the figures provided by the Foundation claim only 18,479 alumni made donations.
Of this money, $72 million was directed towards endowments and endowed chairmanships, which will be used to hire and keep esteemed faculty members. The University claims to have $150 million of the funds on hand for current use projects.
Whether the trend of charitable giving will be able to continue in the current economic climate is unknown. Universities with endowments far bigger than Stony Brook’s have lost millions, if not billions, due to the financial markets. Harvard University’s endowment lost an estimated $12 billion, followed by Yale University’s loss of $5 billion.
These losses were solely in the market and discounted any deliberate deception, such as those perpetrated by Bernard Madoff. With the unsealing of the Madoff client list, the Stony Brook Foundation was announced as a victim of the Madoff Ponzi scheme. According to Professor Robert Frey, the Stony Brook Foundation lost an estimated $5.4 million through Madoff. Other “friends” of the university who lost money through Madoff are the Simons’ and the Laufers, though their losses are unknown.