A college in upstate New York wants to change its name to honor a major donor who has boosted the school's financial prospects with a $20 million pledge.
Paul's Smith's College, a private four-year school situated in the Adirondack State Park about 100 miles south of Montreal, would be renamed Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College under a proposal that has been endorsed by the school's board of trustees. Such a name change would have to be approved by the state.
Joan Weill and her husband, Sanford Weill, former chief executive officer of Citigroup Inc., have been longtime supporters of the college, which has about 1,000 students. The college's library and student center already bear her name. Officials say the Weills' support has been vital to the continue viability of the college.
"At a time when tuition investments and the contributions of many friends and alumni are only partly able to fund the college’s future, we are incredibly fortunate that Joan Weill fell in love with our school 20 years ago, and that she and her husband, Sandy, have already donated nearly $10 million over that time," college president Cathy Dove said in a letter to the Paul Smith's community.
In addition to that past support, they have pledged a gift of $20 million, and the school would get a new name.
"Joan and Sandy are presenting us with an opportunity to solidify the long-term financial health of our school — and extend our values and vision to more students in more ways than ever before — with an unprecedented naming rights pledge," Dove said.
Dove said Joan Weill's support of Paul Smith's college goes beyond financial donations.
"Joan Weill’s legacy has deep roots at Paul Smith’s," Dove says. "For 19 years she served as a member of our board of trustees, including five years as board chair, during which she led our pivotal transition to becoming a four-year institution. Although not herself an alum, she has been so captivated by the spirit of our students and alumni, by the quality of our programs, and by our deep commitment to experiential learning that she gives her time, talents and financial resources to this institution time and time again."
A group of faculty members at Paul Smith's have signed a letter supporting the name change.
"Having endured painful cuts in faculty and staff positions last year, we see the Weills' gift as a game-changer," the faculty said."[W]ith college-age populations declining, competition increasing, and government funding for education shrinking, tuitions and our existing endowment alone will become less and less able to support us, and our best efforts won't gain sustainable traction without a more solid financial foundation. We have now been given that sturdy foundation."