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$75 million gift to school from Jim and Marilyn Simons
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$75 million gift to school from Jim and Marilyn Simons

The City University of New York received the largest donation in its 63-year history: a $75 million gift from the Simons Foundation, the private foundation of billionaire investor Jim Simons and his wife Marilyn.

“For many New Yorkers, higher education is critical to pursuing a career and building a brighter future for themselves,” Governor Hochul said. “This incredible donation from the Simons Foundation will help expand New York’s role in the future of AI at CUNY, preparing our students to fill the jobs of tomorrow right here in our state. With this funding, we are creating more opportunities for our students while solidifying New York as a leader in technology.”

The funding allows CUNY to create a new master’s degree program, hire new faculty, and create workforce opportunities for students and faculty at the nation’s largest and most diverse urban public university. The program, housed at the CUNY Graduate Center, will strengthen the University’s research and innovation capabilities and will build new career pathways into the advanced computer industry, projected to add over 300,000 new jobs in the coming decade.

The Simons Foundation’s $25 million to CUNY underwrites its participation in Empire AI, a state-sponsored consortium of New York’s leading research institutions to create a state-of-the-art artificial intelligence computing center to bolster research and development and unlock AI’s economic potential for the area.

Over the next five years, the $50 million gift will enable CUNY to:

Hire an initiative director in the first year and up to 25 faculty members across multiple focus areas over five years.

Provide support to develop a new Master of Science program at the CUNY Graduate Center.

Conduct workshops and lectures by visiting scholars and fund conference travel for faculty and students.

Strengthen the degree-to-career pipeline by providing research experience for undergraduates, tuition subsidies, and fellowship stipends for master’s students, as well as fellowship stipends for the summer and academic year to enable Ph.D. students to serve as mentors for undergraduate researchers.

This investment builds on CUNY’s reputation as a top-tier research institution, with alumni winning 13 Nobel Prizes and 26 MacArthur “Genius” Grants. In 2023, the University raised a record-setting $633.2 million in external funding for research and other sponsored programs, advancing a key strategic priority to strengthen CUNY’s research ecosystem.

Collectively, CUNY research grants total about $500 million each year, for more than 2,100 active research grants. The generation of knowledge by more than 10,000 faculty scholars and staff produces transformative advances for New York City, New York State and beyond. Significantly, this research is carried out by a diverse collection of students and faculty from across the five boroughs. CUNY researchers are working to reduce disparities in public health, mitigate urgent impacts of climate change and make advancements in STEM.

CUNY Chancellor Félix V. Matos Rodríguez said, “CUNY is deeply grateful to the Simons Foundation for this historic investment. This generous gift, reflecting our position as a research powerhouse with more than 10,000 researchers and an engine of upward mobility for a student body in which 60% are first-generation college students and more than 80% are persons of color, will propel CUNY to the forefront of research and guarantee access for our diverse community. With this support from the Simons Foundation, CUNY reaffirms its mission to promote educational equity and advance its role as a driver of inclusive growth in New York.”

Simons Foundation President David Spergel said, “This gift aims to strengthen computational research at CUNY, to build on its traditions of excellence, its record of inclusion and opportunity, and to enable outstanding students and researchers to have the tools needed to be at the forefront of the field. We were inspired by the Governor’s investment in Empire AI to deepen our investment in CUNY. New York will be the center of computational science and computer science. CUNY’s faculty and students will be a vital part of this scientific revolution.”

CUNY Graduate Center Interim President Joshua Brumberg said, “The Graduate Center has grown its investment in science education and research over the past decade to include new master’s programs in Cognitive Neuroscience, Astrophysics and Data Science. These areas of research can be rapidly advanced by the application of computational techniques that allow us to ask and solve complex problems. Simons’ investment recognizes that we are ideally positioned to create this new program, help grow New York as a center of computational science research and ensure diversity in this cutting-edge field.”

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