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Stony Brook University receives record-breaking $500 million donation

The Simons Center for Geometry and Physics at Stony Brook University. The Simons Foundation announced a $500 million gift to Stony Brook on Thursday, one of the largest in American history. RYAN MUI/THE STATESMAN

Stony Brook University received a gift of $500 million on Thursday. It’s the second-largest donation to any public university in U.S. history and the largest unrestricted gift to a U.S. university’s endowment.

The gift could result in up to $1 billion in total funding because of New York State’s new endowment-matching program and other potential donations inspired by the gift, according to the school

Stony Brook’s endowment is currently just $370 million.

The funds come from the Simons Foundation, a charity group founded in 1994 by Jim Simons, former chair of the math department. 

Simons first came to Stony Brook in 1968 and played a large role in hiring new faculty and expanding the math department. After leaving, he founded Renaissance Technologies, a highly-successful hedge fund that made him billions of dollars as a manager. He has been described as “one of the greatest investors of all time” and is currently the 48th-richest person in the world with a net worth of $28.1 billion, according to Forbes.

The foundation announced the gift during a news conference at their Manhattan offices Thursday morning. 

Simons and his wife, Marilyn, told The New York Times that the gift was inspired by the endowment-matching program New York State passed in April — which will add an additional $100 million to the donation — as well as their appreciation for the university that “transformed” their lives.

“I joined Stony Brook University in 1968 as Chair of their Department of Mathematics,” Simons said in a press release. “I knew then it was a top intellectual center with a serious commitment to research and innovation. But Stony Brook also gave me a chance to lead — and so it has been deeply rewarding to watch the university grow and flourish even more. Marilyn and I are proud to support this outstanding public university that has given us so much.”

The Simons Foundation has now contributed over $1.2 billion to the university since 1983 and helped build the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics.

There are no stipulations on how the money must be used, meaning it could potentially contribute to financial aid, scholarships, professor salaries and more. The Simons Foundation will disperse the money in parts over the next seven years.

The gift comes during a time of financial challenges for Stony Brook. President Maurie McInnis told The Statesman in February that the school has 400 faculty and staff vacancies that it can not afford to fill. Additionally, Governor Kathy Hochul was pushing for a 30% tuition increase, though this year’s state budget ended up increasing SUNY funding to $1.38 billion without raising tuition.

The donation is the seventh-largest ever to a university. Western Michigan is the only public school to receive a larger gift, with $550 million from an anonymous donor in 2021.

The university did not provide a comment before press time.

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About the Contributor
Sky Crabtree
Sky Crabtree, Assistant News Editor
Sky Crabtree is an Assistant News Editor for The Statesman and a sophomore studying journalism and political science. He joined the paper in the spring of 2023 as a news reporter and was promoted at the end of the same semester. Outside of The Statesman, he works as a news intern for WSHU Public Radio and hosts "The Political Corner," a segment on the Stony Brook Media Group's news show.
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