After a $150 million gift to Stony Brook University from Jim Simons, former chairman of the department of mathematics, and Marilyn Hawrys Simons, Stony Brook alumna, a challenge by the Simons Foundation was made to match $50 million through other donors. It was thought that it would be three to five years until that amount was reached, however, after more than 1,500 contributions from donors it was accomplished within a year. The outpouring of support is referred to as the Simons Effect.
iIn a video featured on the Simons Effect page at www.stonybrook.edu, President Samuel L. Stanley Jr, expressed what the gift means to Stony Brook. President Stanley said, “We are honored and overwhelmed by the response to the Simons Foundation Challenge from friends, faculty, staff, and alumni.” He explained that with the help of gift, the “value of a Stony Brook degree is getting better every day.” President Stanley said, “We should celebrate this historic moment and also remind ourselves that it will take continued collaboration and commitment to philanthropy to give us that marginal excellence consistent with all great research universities.
The Simons Effect website (www.stonybrook.edu/sb/simonseffect) includes a list of all of the donors and features some of the gifts. This includes broadcaster Christiane Amanpour’s $50,000 donation to the Marie Colvin Center for International Reporting, Robert and Lisa Lourie’s $2.5 million investment in the Stony Brook’s Pediatric MS Center and a gift from the Hartman Foundation that will create the Thomas Hartman Center for Parkinson’s research.
In general, the gifts are funding scholarships, fellowships, endowed chairs and research in areas such as neurosciences and cancer. The webpage outlines how the money will influence “focus on research excellence in the school of medicine,” “establish a hub of interdisciplinary research and development” through the construction of a new life sciences research building (the Medical and Research Translation building, or MART center), invest in faculty through endowed professorships,” “attract top-notch graduate students” through new fellowships and “provide for the future.”
Students that have heard about the $200 million shared their positive reactions to the Simons Effect, while others felt that they did not know enough about the gift to comment. John Mitchell, a sophomore math major commended Jim Simons for his success saying, “Good for him for what he did. He went from a math professor here, started a hedge fund company, made a ton of money…and he was nice enough to donate money back to the school.” In terms of how it will affect himself, Mitchell added, “It helps me, it helps the school and it’s going to help me when I have this degree and this school’s a lot better.” Clare Smith, a freshman athletic training major agreed, adding, “The more donations the merrier.… It will only help.”
Other students remarked on how the Simons Effect will be beneficial to Stony Brook as a university. Brian Delgado, a senior art history major, philosophy minor and a USG senator said, “I think one of the good things that I guess everyone can agree on is that it gives notoriety to the school and that notoriety will be positive for students, the faculty and Stony Brook as a whole.”