April 7, 2009

Weills Give $170M to Med School

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Sanford Weill ’55, whose name adorns multiple buildings throughout Cornell’s Ithaca and New York City campuses, has once again pledged a nine digit sum to his alma mater, helping the University continue to grow even as it faces a stringent budget deficit.
Vice President for University Communications Tommy Bruce confirmed last night that Weill gave the Weill Cornell Medical College $170 million in December and January in order to allow the University to build a new medical research building.[img_assist|nid=36637|title=Weill Donations|desc=|link=node|align=left|width=131|height=198]
Weill’s donation, which is his fourth gift of at least $100 million to Cornell, serves as an advance of the $250 million he had originally planned to give to the University after his death. According to The New York Times, President David Skorton approached Weill requesting the advance. The philanthropist currently serves as the chairman of the board of WCMC, and is widely credited with developing the college into a world class medical school with his first donation in 1998.
“Sandy Weill is one of the most generous people in the history of philanthropy,” Bruce said. “The impact of this gift will have a major impact in allowing Cornell to position itself for growth and opportunity even the midst of [a bad economy].”
Weill and his wife Joan currently hold the record for largest single donation to Cornell for his 2007 gift of $300 million. The Sun estimates that they have given over $720 million to the University since 1998. They have has also given large sums of money to Carnegie Hall, the Hebrew Home for the Aged and Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater Foundation, among other organizations. Slate Magazine named him the seventh largest charitable donor in America in 2007.
“Nobody is worth what they were, except liars,” Weill told The Times yesterday about the current status of personal wealth in America. “So we have all felt the pain, but we all can do more and doing something in a time like this is much more important.”
Bruce confirmed that Weill’s gift will be a substantial boon for Cornell, especially in the face of lower rates of alumni donation and financial shortfalls that have resulted in budget cuts across the University.
“This is a very important gift,” Bruce said. “It will allow Cornell to position itself for the future. The generosity of Mr. Weill is indeed beneficial for the University.”
After graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences at Cornell, Weill, a Brooklyn native of Polish descent, made his money in the financial sector. He began as a runner and then stockbroker for Bear Stearns, before beginning his own company, which was eventually acquired by American Express, according to the Academy of Achievement. Weill later started a company that, through a series of mergers, formed Citigroup, of which he later became CEO and chairman. Citigroup is the world’s largest financial corporation. Weill stepped down as chairman in 2006 in order to devote his time to philanthropic giving.
Forbes, which ranked Weill as the 337th richest person in America in March, reported that he has lost $500 million over the past year due in part to plummeting Citigroup stock.
Citigroup has recently come under scrutiny for taking a large federal bailout as Wall Street firms have struggled to stay afloat. The Times article on the donation, speculates that Weill’s philanthropy towards Cornell may be “trying to burnish an uncertain legacy after the collapse of the company he built …”
“We are proud of the Weill name,” WCMC Dean Antonio Gotto told the Times. “Their philanthropy has totally changed this medical college.”