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Jim Simons

Pictured above, from left to right: Simons Foundation President David Spergel, Jim and Marilyn Simon, Stony Brook University President Maurie McInnis and Governor Kathy Hochul. Photo by John Griffin/Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University’s former Math Department chair is making history.

Jim Simons, with his wife Marilyn and through the Simons Foundation, is giving the largest ever unrestricted gift of $500 million to the university’s endowment.

The donation, which the Simons Foundation will provide in installments over the next seven years, will more than double the endowment for the SUNY flagship school.

As a part of a program Governor Kathy Hochul (D) created last year, New York State will provide a one-to-two endowment match while the school, with support from the Simons Foundation, reaches out to other donors for additional support.

SBU expects the gift to total about $1 billion.

“Today is indeed a historic day for Stony Brook University,” President Maurie McInnis said during a press conference at the Simons Foundation headquarters in Manhattan on June 1. “I cannot overestimate the tremendous impact” the gift will have.

The university anticipates using the gift, named the Simons Infinity Investment, for student scholarships for a diverse student body, endowed professorships, research initiatives, development of new academic fields and clinical care.

McInnis, who is the sixth president of SBU, suggested this kind of support helped create and shape some of the nation’s most prestigious universities, including Harvard and Yale.

Looking at how they started, “you’ll find that they were bolstered by generous supporters who were ambitious and wise enough to see the potential of the institutions and invest in the future,” McInnis said at the press conference. “Because of those supporters, look where they are now. That is the trajectory we are on,” thanks to the support from Jim and Marilyn Simons and the foundation president, David Spergel.

McInnis believes the funds will help make the university a place where every student meets their potential, thanks to the support and the “deep sense of belonging in every corner of campus.”

The funds would also help ensure that researchers have access to the “best labs and equipment” so they can “chase the next discovery” and where learners will come to the university because they “know they have the resources they need to make a difference.”

History of giving

The Simons family has a long history of giving back to the university, which was so important in their lives.

Starting with a much more humble gift of $750 in 1983, the Simons family, with this gift and other recent commitments, have pledged $1.2 billion to a university that Gov. Hochul declared a flagship of the state university system in 2022.

“I’m so happy to be here today, to be able to give back to Stony Brook, which has given so much to me,” Marilyn Simons said at the press conference.

When she started as a student at Stony Brook, Marilyn said her father was a subcontractor who, along with her brother and cousin, did some of the brickwork at university buildings.

In addition to earning her bachelor’s at Stony Brook, Marilyn Simons also earned her Ph.D.

“I’m grateful to Stony Brook for all it’s given me,” she said. “I hope many others will invest along with us.”

Jim Simons became chairman of the Math Department when he was 30. He hired 10 faculty in his first year and the same number in his second.

When Hochul stood up to speak, Simons interrupted her.

“I’ve known” all six presidents of Stony Brook, the former Math Department chair said. McInnis “is the best.”

Hochul appreciated the direction and vision of SBU’s leadership, recognizing the sizeable financial commitment the state would now have to meet.

When she came up with the endowment idea, “I didn’t realize it was going to be so expensive for me,” Hochul laughed. If that inspired the Simons Foundation to come forward, “it was worth it.”

A public institution like Stony Brook “has no limits right now,” Hochul added. “I guarantee across the world, they’ve all heard of Stony Brook right now.”

A winning streak

The $500 million gift from the Simons Foundation continues a winning streak, making 2023 a memorable and landmark year for the university.

A few weeks ago, Stony Brook, with a $100 million commitment from the Simons Foundation, won the state’s contest to turn Governors Island into a center for climate science called the New York Climate Exchange. [See story, “SBU will develop $700M climate center on Governors Island,” April 26, TBR News Media website.]

The center, which will cost $700 million to construct and is expected to open in 2028, will house research laboratories, host community discussions and train 6,000 people per year to work in green energy jobs.

SBU has “shown that it has the knowledge, the authority and the boldness to bring together the most eminent institutions to address the world’s leading challenges,” McInnis said.

Stony Brook University: Entrance sign

The Simons Foundation’s contribution is the largest unrestricted endowment gift to a higher education institution in American history

The Simons Foundation, a philanthropy working to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences, today announced a historic $500 million endowment gift to Stony Brook University during a news conference at the foundation’s Manhattan headquarters. This monumental gift — the combined largesse of the Simons Foundation and Simons Foundation International — is the largest unrestricted donation to an institution of higher education in U.S. history.

The extraordinary gift is also expected to grow by up to $1 billion in contributions for Stony Brook University’s endowment by capitalizing on New York State’s 1:2 endowment matching program and other philanthropy inspired by this gift. This transformative donation will cement Stony Brook’s place as New York’s flagship research institution and provide the means to invest in areas most urgent and necessary to help sustain the university’s commitment to educational excellence, research innovation and community support.

Investments stemming from this gift will have a direct and positive impact on perpetual funding for student scholarships, endowed professorships, innovative research, and excellent clinical care.

“The Simons Foundation mission is to advance the frontiers of research in mathematics and the basic sciences,” Foundation President David Spergel said. “For more than a decade, we have been proud to give to an institution that is at the forefront of educational excellence in the sciences. It is our sincere hope that this large unrestricted gift will build upon our previous support to Stony Brook, giving students and faculty the ability to dream big and engage in transformative research.”

“A world-class, public education has the ability to transform the lives of New Yorkers, which is why in this year’s budget we created the first-ever matching fund for endowment contributions for SUNY’s university centers,” Governor Kathy Hochul said. “Time and again, Stony Brook University forges a bold path forward, from innovation happening at Brookhaven Lab to the economic development throughout Long Island. With this remarkable contribution from the Simons Foundation, Stony Brook will continue to excel as an internationally recognized research institution and give students the tools they need to succeed.”

“We are eternally grateful to Jim and Marilyn Simons and Simons Foundation President David Spergel for their unparalleled support of Stony Brook University. In 1960, we were given a mandate by the State Board of Regents to become a university that would ‘stand with the finest in the country,’” University President Maurie McInnis said. “Thanks in large part to the generosity of the Simons Foundation, we have done just that, and we have no intention of slowing down. We take seriously our commitment to our students, our faculty and our broader community to advance knowledge and contribute to the most significant challenges facing our society. We are so proud of all that we have accomplished as an institution and our best days are ahead of us.”

“I joined Stony Brook University in 1968 as Chair of their Department of Mathematics,” Simons Foundation Co-Founder Jim Simons said. “I knew then it was a top intellectual center with a serious commitment to research and innovation. But Stony Brook also gave me a chance to lead — and so it has been deeply rewarding to watch the university grow and flourish even more. Marilyn and I are proud to support this outstanding public university that has given us so much.”

“As a Stony Brook graduate, I know firsthand the role that a quality education plays in the trajectory of one’s life,” said Marilyn Simons ’74, PhD ’84, Simons Foundation Co-Founder. “I am proud of the education I received there. 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. The foundation’s gift will also help give those from underserved communities the opportunity to reach their full potential. We look forward to seeing this institution continue to thrive.”

Since Jim and Marilyn made their first gift of $750 in 1983, they and the Simons Foundation have committed more than $1.2 billion to Stony Brook, while also inspiring over 2,100 other donors to give to the university. Their transformational support has led to growth impacting every corner of the Stony Brook campus and beyond, from the Renaissance School of Medicine and the Simons Center for Geometry and Physics to Stony Brook’s Simons STEM Scholars program, nine endowed chairs and professorships in economics, and more.

In addition to this historic gift and previous gifts to Stony Brook University, last month, following Stony Brook’s successful bid to serve as the anchor institution of the The New York Climate Exchange, the Simons Foundation committed $100 million to the project’s expected $700 million budget. These funds will help establish this climate research, education and green-economy training hub, set to transform how the world responds to the climate crisis and pioneer investigation into environmental, community and health outcomes and impacts.

The Simons’ own personal involvement in Stony Brook community life over the past 55 years has been life-changing for generations of students’ and scholars’ past, present and future. They have provided countless hours of counsel and leadership to advance important initiatives. For example, Marilyn Simons’ work with the  Stony Brook Women’s Leadership Council mentoring program has been a launchpad for the careers of many undergraduates from all over campus.

“Jim and Marilyn have a long history of generously supporting the sciences, education, and the health and well-being of New Yorkers,” said Michael R. Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg LP and Bloomberg Philanthropies, and 108th Mayor of New York City. “This new gift is an extraordinary example of that, and it will help Stony Brook University make critical investments that will empower more students to reach their full potential.” 

“The generosity of Jim and Marilyn Simons and the Simons Foundation has already changed the lives of millions of New Yorkers, and this historic contribution to Stony Brook University will impact our students and our state for generations to come,” said SUNY Chancellor John B. King Jr. “Today’s announcement will benefit SUNY students through scholarship, academic programs, and research opportunities, and it will enhance Stony Brook’s prominence as a world-class leader of higher education. The Simons donation illustrates the power of Governor Hochul’s Endowment Fund Match program to multiply the support of generous donors to expand research and scholarship across SUNY.”

“It is my true honor to know Jim and Marilyn and to have had the privilege to work alongside them for more than 30 years,” said Stony Brook Foundation Board of Trustees Chair Richard Gelfond ‘76. “Both as an alumnus of Stony Brook and as Board chair, I am grateful for their generous philanthropic support, their leadership, and their friendship. They have made an indelible impact on the future of the University.”

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About Stony Brook University

Stony Brook is New York’s top ranked public university and a part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system, an internationally recognized research institution and center of academic excellence dedicated to addressing pressing global challenges. SBU serves as the anchor institution for the New York Climate Exchange on Governors Island, the nation’s first climate research, education and green-sector-job-training hub set to transform how our global response to the climate crisis. As one of only eight American universities with a role in running a national laboratory, Stony Brook is also the joint managing partner of the Brookhaven National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy.  The university’s distinguished faculty have earned esteemed awards such as the Nobel Prize, Pulitzer Prize, Indianapolis Prize for animal conservation, Abel Prize and the inaugural Breakthrough Prize in Mathematics.


About Simons Foundation

Co-founded in 1994 in New York City by Jim and Marilyn Simons, the Simons Foundation’s mission is to support basic scientific research in pursuit of understanding the phenomena of our world. The Simons Foundation provides grants to individual researchers and to scientific collaborations and institutions, work in mathematics and physical sciences, life sciences, neuroscience, and autism science. The Simons Foundation also conducts computational research in basic sciences in-house at its Flatiron Institute.

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Executives of the East Setauket-based hedge fund, Renaissance Technologies, have agreed to settle up to $7 billion in a tax dispute with the Internal Revenue Service, according to reports from The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

The long-running dispute reportedly arose following a Senate investigation indicating the firm used complex financial instruments as tax avoidance measures between 2005 and 2015. The agreement may be one of the largest in U.S. history.

Included in the settlement are founder and philanthropist James Simons, of East Setauket, and former co-managing director Robert Mercer, of Head of the Harbor. Both men have been political donors.

According to the Times, Simons will make a payment of $670 million in addition to his obligation to pay further sums along with Mercer and others.

Simons founded the hedge fund in 1982. He was a codebreaker in the 1960s and is a former chairman of Stony Brook University’s Department of Mathematics.

Simons stepped down from active involvement in Renaissance in 2010, while Mercer resigned as co-CEO at the end
of 2017.

TBR News Media was unable to obtain comment from Renaissance Technologies by press time.

Photo by © Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo

After two years of extensive renovation and with generous support from New York State, Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory’s historic Demerec Laboratory was reborn as a state-of-the-art research facility. Governor Andrew Cuomo cut the ribbon for the building’s reopening on Oct. 30, celebrating how the state will benefit from this new chapter in CSHL research.

“It’s good for Long Island, it’s good for the economy, but also it is doing work that I believe will improve the quality of life for thousands and thousands of people. I believe this work will actually save lives and there is nothing more important than that,” Governor Cuomo said during his visit. “That is the work that the people in this facility are dedicated to and God bless them for that. The state is honored to be playing a small role today.”

The Demerec Laboratory, home to four Nobel laureates, has been both a bastion and compass point for genetics research in New York and the world. Its new research will focus on taking a more holistic approach to treating cancer and the disease’s impact on the entire body.

According to the CSHL’s website, the new center “will enable newly developed compounds to be refined by world-leading chemists to develop next-generation therapies. This research will form a basis for collaboration with private foundations and pharmaceutical companies, while advancing the development of new drugs. 

In addition, the center will support ongoing research activities aimed to develop therapeutics for breast cancer, leukemia, autism, obesity, diabetes and lung cancer. The primary goal of such research activities will include the development of advanced drug compounds targeting underlying biological pathways.” 

To prepare the Demerec building for 21st-century science, it had to be gutted, with extensive renovations of the basement and interior, while leaving the historic 1950s brutalist exterior largely unchanged.

“We really challenged ourselves to preserve the history of the building as much as possible,” said Centerbrook design firm architect Todd E. Andrews, who planned the renovation.

The result is a modern facility uniquely designed for a scientific approach that considers disease not as a stand-alone subject of study but as a complex system that focuses on the patient.

“Too often [scientists] are not looking at the patient and the system of the patient … even though there are obvious signs that we should be looking,” said Dr. Tobias Janowitz, one of the next generation of Demerec Lab scientists and research-clinicians dedicated to rethinking cancer medicine.

Other Demerec researchers will include Nicholas Tonks, who investigates relationships between diabetes, obesity and cancer, and Linda Van Aelst, a neuroscientist who is interested in how sleep and signals from the brain may be impacted by cancer. Semir Beyaz, who studies how a patient’s nutrition can affect cancer treatment, will also join the team.

While the Demerec Laboratory’s faculty hasn’t been finalized, the researchers will be working alongside the rest of the CSHL community — including 600 scientists, students and technicians — to create a distinctly collaborative and cross-disciplinary culture.

Governor Cuomo called the Demerec building and the larger CSHL campus “hallowed ground for scientific research,” after dedicating $25 million in 2017 toward the $75 million renovation and said he is confident the space and its scientists will deliver a new wave of scientific progress.

“We invested over $620 million statewide in life sciences with $250 million in Long Island alone in biotech. Why? Because we believe that is an economic cluster that is going to grow and that is going to create jobs and it already is,” the governor said. “I believe Long Island is going to be the next Research Triangle.“

Renovating a single research facility may seem like a small step toward the state’s goal, but this particular building has made Long Island a scientific hot spot once again.

“While the Demerec building is comparatively smaller than larger projects that the governor has initiated … it is arguably one of the most productive buildings in all of science,” said CSHL President and CEO Bruce Stillman. “This renovation allows us to really think about where the Lab will take things next. It will have, I hope, a global impact on the research community, especially in the biomedical sciences.

Pictured from left: Laurel Hollow Mayor Daniel DeVita, President of Long Island Association Kevin Law, Northwell Health CEO Michael Dowling, President of Empire State Development Eric Gertler, Commissioner of Health for NYS Dr. Howard Zucker, CSHL President and CEO Bruce Stillman, Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, CSHL Honorary Trustee Jim Simons, CSHL Chair of the Board of Trustees Marilyn Simons, Nassau County Supervisor Laura Curran, NYS State Assemblyman Chuck Lavine, NYS Assemblyman Steve Stern, NYS Senator Jim Gaughran and CSHL COO John Tuke.   Photo by © Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo