Wall Street billionaire Sandy Weill and his wife Joan were going to donate $20 million to the struggling Paul Smith’s College upstate—seriously, they were!—but some silly judge had to go and ruin the whole thing by ruling that the school could not be renamed Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College.
When Phelps Smith died in 1937, he bequeathed the money and land to build the school, known in for its hotel-management and wildlife and forestry programs, and mandated that it be “forever known” as Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences, to honor his father, a hotelier. This month, the Times reports, a judge refused to allow the college to break the terms of its founder’s will in order to accept the Weill’s substantial donation.
For more than two decades, Mrs. Weill has been actively involved in the college’s development and governance, and has served on the board for 19 years. During her tenure, the college added its four-year baccalaureate program; it previously offered two-year degrees in its programs. She and her husband donated millions of dollars to the college over the years. Their contributions helped build a new library and a student center, both of which are named for her.
The Weills’ donation would have funded most of a $30 million, five-year strategic plan the college has said is necessarily for its survival.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Weills are not going to give the money,” an attorney who represented alumni who objected to the potential name change, Mark Schneider, said. “If they really wanted to give a gift to the school, it shouldn’t be contingent on something as self-glorifying as naming the school after Mrs. Weill. They could have named something else.”
“The Weills are really wonderful people, and I know they’re disappointed. I’m disappointed,” college president Cathy Dove said. “Honestly, in every conversation I’ve had with them they’ve continued to say we care about the students. I don’t think that will ever change.”
In the end, isn’t that what really matters?