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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman


    Former Math Chairman Contributes Largest Donation to SUNY

    Dr. James H. Simons, a former math professor at Stony Brook University, has been working with numbers all his life. Now, he is giving the University a new number to deal with- $60 million. This is the largest donation given to any public school in New York, exceeding Charles B. Wang’s donation to the school of over $40 million.

    On Wednesday morning, New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer, accompanied by President Kenny, welcomed the gift to the university from Dr. Simons and his wife, Dr. Marilyn Simons.

    The money will go towards creating the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics, which will be located behind the Physics and Math buildings. It will be used to recruit professors and fund graduate and research programs.

    “Jim Simons is a man who knows a good investment when he sees one, and through this generosity he acknowledges the great potential of SUNY Stony Brook,” Gov. Spitzer said of the university and its position as a flagship school for the SUNY system.

    As he addressed the media, distinguished faculty and a select group of Stony Brook students who attended the press conference Wed. morning, Gov. Spitzer said, “This is a stunning gift?and I am tempted to say it will spark a renaissance at Stony Brook?it has reminded me that on one level I wish I had studied my geometry a bit more.”

    Dr. Simons, who is President and Founder of Renaissance Technologies Corp., worked as chairman of the Mathematics Department at Stony Brook from 1968 to 1976. Under his supervision, the department grew to become the influential and prestigious department it is today, according to a press release.

    During his time at Stony Brook, Dr. Simons’ research involved geometry, and his assistance in the discovery of the Chern-Simons formula is used in physics to this day. Dr. Simons also worked closely with Dr. Chen Ning Yang, the first Chinese man, and Stony Brook professor, to win the Nobel Prize in Physics. It is no surprise, then, that the new center is trying to emphasize research in the relationship between math and physics. “This center will make an amazing difference in terms of our understanding of this very interesting nexus between geometry and physics,” President Kenny said to the audience.

    The Simons family and their foundation have already donated over $85 million to Stony Brook University. The Simons Foundation is an organization focused on funding “advanced work in the basic sciences and mathematics,” concentrating on autism research, the foundation’s web site said.

    With the 50th anniversary in full swing, and Gov. Spitzer’s announcement of a $4 billion endowment to the SUNY system, Stony Brook University is closer to meeting the $300 million goal of its current capital campaign, “The Emergence of Stony Brook.” So far, the University has raised $260 million.

    Dr. Marilyn Simons, who holds a B.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Stony Brook, said through tearful eyes, “Going to Stony Brook changed my life in so many ways. I met my wonderful husband, and I got a wonderful education that opened the world to me. I’m so pleased to give back to the university that has given me so much.”

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