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October 23, 2015

Weills Pull $20-Million Gift After Court Denies College Renaming

Paul Smith's College will not receive a $20-million donation from billionaire philanthropists Joan and Sanford Weill that was contingent on adding Ms. Weill's name to the small upstate New York institution, reports The New York Times. A state judge earlier this month rejected the proposed renaming to Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College, which would have required voiding a provision in the will of the institution's original benefactor.

College officials said Thursday that they have decided not to appeal the ruling, and the Weills have opted not to make the contribution. "It was a naming gift, so without the court allowing us to go forward there was no money," college spokesman Bob Bennett said. "That was the deal, right from the beginning." Ms. Weill did not respond to requests for comment.

The proposed renaming, announced along with the gift in July, drew sharp criticism from the college's alumni and its neighbors in Adirondack Park. College officials contended the $20-million gift was critical to the institution's future and necessitated breaking its founder's stipulation that it be "forever known" as Paul Smith's College of Arts and Sciences, but state Supreme Court Justice John T. Ellis rejected that argument, noting that the college has run a budget surplus for nine of the past 11 years.

Shannon Oborne, the college's marketing head, said Paul Smith's is "now pursuing different fundraising opportunities." The college announced Thursday that an anonymous donor has offered a $5-million matching gift aimed at spurring giving by alumni, who have not been a significant source of revenue in the past.