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Former math professor turned billionaire hedge funder James Simons has donated $500 million to his former employer — Stony Brook University, it was announced Thursday.
The staggering $500 million contribution from foundations overseen by James and his wife, Stony Brook alumna Marilyn Simons, was touted as the largest unrestricted donation to a college in US history.
Gov. Kathy Hochul — who designated Stony Brook one of the State University of New York’s flagship campuses last year — showed up at the event in Manhattan to celebrate the announcement.
Hochul noted that the Simons met and fell in love while at Stony Brook.
“It is such a glorious day. What a celebration – of love, the love story that began with these two individuals who stayed committed to each other, but at the time perhaps had not realized that after 50 years you would be so committed to this institution that brought you together,” Hochul said.
“So, it is a love story. It is a story of faith, of people who believed in this institution and believed it could be even better than it was, better than they found it.”
In April, New York City selected Stony Brook to head a consortium that will operate a research laboratory on Governors Island to combat climate change. Simons has also donated $100 million to the $700 million climate exchange budget.
The Simons gift is expected to grow by up to $1 billion in contributions for Stony Brook University’s endowment, thanks to New York State’s public matching program for donations.
Simons has steadily contributed to Stony Brook, including a record $60 million donation in 2008.
The founder of Renaissance Technologies investment firm credited his time at Stony Brook with honing his skills.
“I joined Stony Brook University in 1968 as Chair of their Department of Mathematics,” Simons Foundation Co-Founder Jim Simons said in a statement. “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.”
Marilyn Simons, who has received two degrees from the Long Island school, said, “I am proud of the education I received there. Jim and I want to ensure that Stony Brook continues to serve its students with the highest level of educational excellence and with world-class resources.
“The foundation’s gift will also help give those from underserved communities the opportunity to reach their full potential. We look forward to seeing this institution continue to thrive.”