A Belle Terre resident opened his wallet to give back to his alma mater last week, donating $1 million to Suffolk County Community College.
Robert Frey, through his Frey Family Foundation, made the gift as the college honored him during its annual Salute to Excellence Gala on May 5, for the foundation’s contributions to SCCC. The college said it was the largest gift from a graduate in its 58-year history.
“I tend to not do these things in the way that gets attention,” Frey said in a phone interview on Monday. But he said he thought the action would “trigger other people” to support the college.
Frey is a research professor at Stony Brook University and the director of its quantitative finance program, within the applied mathematics and statistics department, among other positions at SBU. He is also a businessman, serving as CEO of international investment management firm FQS Capital Partners Ltd. and of his family office, Harbor Financial Management.
He graduated from the college in 1978. His wife Kathy and daughter Megan also graduated from SCCC. After Suffolk, Frey went on to Stony Brook University, where he eventually earned a doctorate in applied mathematics.
“I never would have gotten started without Suffolk,” he said, which is why he wanted to give back.
He grew up in Brooklyn, a “lower middle class Irish-American whose access to education at a price he could afford changed his life.”
He said he hopes the $1 million will be used for capital improvements and scholarships, but he specifically “didn’t want to put too many restrictions on this” because he trusts the college officials’ judgment.
The donor “recognizes the transformative value of his foundation’s contribution and the impact it will have on the lives of our students,” college President Shaun L. McKay said in a statement. “We cannot thank him enough for his generosity and commitment to our institution.”
Frey’s name is familiar to more than just the Suffolk and SBU campus communities — he was previously a member of the Port Jefferson school board, before resigning in 2011 for health reasons. He was also once on the Mount Sinai school board when he lived in that community.
He has worked for his community in other ways as well.
The community college said he has also served on the boards of the nonprofit volunteer safety group The Alliance of Guardian Angels; the Port Jefferson-based nonprofit Hope House Ministries; the National Museum of Mathematics in New York City; the Suffolk Community College Foundation; and the Stony Brook Foundation.
This isn’t the first time the Frey Family Foundation has donated a large sum to a local institution — it has previously given to both Stony Brook University and John T. Mather Memorial Hospital.
In the case of Suffolk Community and why it deserved support, Frey stressed that the courses are high-caliber and the college cares about its students, many of whom would not have had access to advanced education or training without it.
“It does meet the needs of so many people,” he said. “There are probably few things … where your money is going to be used more effectively than in education.”