NATIONAL NEWS

Stony Brook University gets $500 million from hedge fund founder who taught math there

Jun 1, 2023, 12:56 PM

FILE — Jim Simons, a businessman and founder of Math for America, poses at his New York office, D...

FILE — Jim Simons, a businessman and founder of Math for America, poses at his New York office, Dec. 14, 2005. The Simons Foundation, a New York-based charity that supports math and science research, announced a $500 million gift, Thursday, June 1, 2023, to Stony Brook University, a public institution where founder Simons was a math professor before he became a billionaire hedge fund manager. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Stony Brook University, a part of the public State University of New York system, will receive $500 million from a philanthropic foundation started by a hedge fund billionaire who once taught math there, the foundation announced Thursday.

The gift from the Simons Foundation will be delivered to Stony Brook over seven years and will go directly to the university’s endowment rather than being earmarked for a specific project, foundation officials said.

“I just love Stony Brook. It’s just a wonderful institution in every respect,” foundation co-founder Jim Simons said in announcing the gift at the Simons Foundation’s headquarters in Manhattan.

Simons, who joined Stony Brook as chair of the math department in 1968, said the Long Island-based university “gave me a chance to lead, and so it has been deeply rewarding to watch the university grow and flourish even more.”

Simons, who is now 85, went from academia to Wall Street, where he founded Renaissance Technologies, one of the world’s largest hedge funds. Forbes estimated Simons’ net worth at $21.6 billion in 2019.

Simons and his wife, Marilyn, started the Simons Foundation in 1994 to support research in mathematics and the basic sciences.

The foundation has made several previous donations to Stony Brook, where Marilyn Simons received her bachelor’s degree and a Ph.D. in economics. The gift announced Thursday will bring the total amount that the couple and their foundation have pledged to Stony Brook to $1.2 billion, foundation officials said.

“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,” Marilyn Simons said. “The foundation’s gift will also help give those from underserved communities the opportunity to reach their full potential.”

The gift to Stony Brook is among the largest that U.S. colleges or universities have received in recent years.

In 2022, venture capitalist John Doerr and his wife, Ann, pledged $1.1 billion to Stanford University to build a new school focused on climate change.

A small private college in Kansas, McPherson College, received an anonymous pledge of $500 million in matching funds to its endowment last year. It must raise the funds to be matched by the end of the month in order to receive the full amount.

Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, gave $425 million to the University of Oregon in 2022 for a new institute on children’s behavioral health.

Hedge fund founder Kenneth Griffin gave Harvard University $300 million earlier this year.

New York state officials said the donation to Stony Brook could grow by up to $1 billion through a state matching program proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul and through other philanthropy inspired by the Simons Foundation’s gift.

“I do believe it’s inspiring others to step forward and to say, ‘Let’s make similar investments,’” Hochul said at the announcement ceremony. “Because I am saying a public institution like Stony Brook has no limits right now.”

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Associated Press writer Thalia Beaty contributed to this report.

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Stony Brook University gets $500 million from hedge fund founder who taught math there