A $20 million donation to the small, struggling Paul Smith's College by the wife of a finance billionaire came with a significant string attached: the school had to rename itself after her, changing its name to Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.
The college, nestled in the Adirondack mountains, badly needed the money, and it agreed to the name change. But a judge ruled that the conditions of the college's founding documents, which called for the school to be "forever known" as Paul Smith's College after the founder's father, prohibited the name change.
So Joan Weill took her money back.
After the judge's ruling, Weill and her husband, Sanford Weill, the former chairman and CEO of Citigroup, have withdrawn their donation, the New York Times reported Thursday. “It was a naming gift, so without the court allowing us to go forward there was no money,” Bob Bennett, a spokesperson for the school, told the Times. “That was the deal, right from the beginning.”
The Weill Family Foundation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The couple have been intimately involved in the small college, which is the only four-year-school in the Adirondacks, for several decades, after Joan Weill became invested in its future because of a vacation home the couple owns nearby.
Weill had already made several significant donations to Paul Smith's College, building a student center and a 45,000 square foot library on the school's rural campus. The buildings are named the Joan Weill Student Center and the Joan Weill Adirondack Library.