RenTech Founder Simons Gives $150M To University

Dec 14 2011 | 3:52am ET

James Simons has already founded a hugely successful hedge fund. Now, he’s preparing to found—or refound—the university he worked at prior to becoming a billionaire.

The retired Renaissance Technologies chief and his wife, Marilyn, will today announce a $150 million gift to Stony Brook University. The gift is the sixth-largest donation ever to a U.S. public university and the largest in Stony Brook’s history.

The previous record at Stony Brook is also held by the Simonses, who gave the school $60 million in 2008.

The Simons gift will be given over a seven-year period and follows legislation freeing the State University of New York’s 64 campuses to raise their tuition and promising continuing state support. Simons pushed for the changes, promising a major gift if the changes were made.

“There was no point to continue to support an institution that the state was backing away from,” Simons told The New York Times. “Inexpensive access to mediocrity is not doing anyone such a favor.”

The $150 million will fund a new life sciences building, a neurosciences institute, centers for biological imaging and cancer and infectious diseases, 35 endowed professorships and 40 graduate fellowships. The donation, more than triple Stony Brook’s average annual fundraising, is the university’s “rebirth day,” President Samuel Stanley said.

Simons served as chairman of Stony Brook’s mathematics department from 1968 until 1978. Four years later, he founded RenTech.

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