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August 18, 2015

N.Y. Court to Hear College's Bid to Rename Itself for Donor

An upstate New York judge was set to hear arguments Tuesday on a request by Paul Smith's College to change its name to recognize a $20-million donor, writes The New York Times. The gift from Joan Weill, wife of Wall Street billionaire Sanford I. Weill and a longtime benefactor of the small private institution in the Adirondacks, is contingent on the name change to Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.

The case before State Supreme Court Justice John T. Ellis rests on a provision in the will of college founder Phelps Smith, who left land and money for the school in 1937 and dictated that it be "forever known" as Paul Smith's College of Arts and Sciences in honor of his father, a noted local hotelier. The financially struggling institution is seeking permission to waive the requirement, arguing that it needs the cash infusion to grow and adapt to a changing higher-education market.

The state Board of Regents board backed the name change last month, and the New York attorney general's office, which regulates nonprofits, has indicated that it has no objection. But the proposal has drawn strong opposition from many Paul Smith's alumni and members of the local community, who say they appreciate Ms. Weill's generosity but do not see why it should necessitate rechristening the college.