A native of Central New York who used a math degree from SUNY Oswego to make a fortune in the real estate business has informed the college of his intention to bequeath approximately $5 million to his alma mater in support of the Possibility Scholarship program.
It is the largest planned gift in the school’s history, and will affect the lives of generations of students who otherwise might not be able to afford a college education. By supporting math and science education for New York state students, the gift will potentially lift the whole area economically.
But, at the donor’s request, his identity will remain anonymous.
“This is a transformative gift that will make individual dreams come true and can help boost the economy of our state,” said President Deborah F. Stanley.
“With this gift, our generous donor is opening the door to a college education and a better life for many of our future students.”
The Possibility Scholarship provides talented students from New York state who want to study in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields, with the financial help they need to attend SUNY Oswego.
The alumnus made clear that his intention is to promote the study of math, which he feels is crucial to success in most fields. “Math is a universal language and supports every other subject,” the donor said. “Regardless of what career path one takes, a strong math background is important to excel.”
As a soldier toward the end of the Vietnam War, he used his math skills to help the Pentagon determine which troops to bring home first. After his service he began a career in real estate, where math again helped him succeed. “I made most of my money from real estate investing,” he said. “Math was very instrumental in helping me to evaluate investments.”
The donor wants to keep America more competitive in the global economy, he said, by reversing a trend toward the acceptance of poor math skills in this country’s students.
The alumnus focused his generosity on the Possibility Scholarship program because it covers all tuition, fees, and room and board, in coordination with any other grants or scholarships awarded, for qualifying students for four full years.
The donor knows how important such aid can be. A Regents Scholar, he worked hard to pay his way through college. Scrubbing pots and pans in the dining hall, serving as resident assistant in a Lakeside residence hall, and bartending at a local establishment helped him pay for his college degree.
The Possibility Scholarship’s tuition benefit “takes away one more fear or impediment to concentrating,” he said. “Most people, when they have problems in life, it is usually financially originated. Remove that element and it makes people’s lives more stress-free.”
The alumnus said he wants to give back to Oswego because of the great experience he had at the college, and he wants to help others — who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education — to have the same great experience.
He made the most of his time at Oswego as a very active student, taking part in varied and enriching experiences, including student media.
A third-generation American, he formed a bond with a foreign language professor, Dr. Joseph Wiecha, who helped him get a scholarship to study one summer in the land of his ancestors. “I considered that the highlight of my life, going over there,” he said. Possibility Scholars travel to one of several Global Laboratory partners that Oswego has on every continent to study and work on science projects with researchers in their fields.
Despite wanting his name kept private for now, the donor said he hopes that his gift will inspire others to support Oswego and its students with an estate gift,
especially since state budget support for the college is diminishing.
“You have to give back, especially if Oswego’s been good to you,” he said.
He also pointed out that bequests to a charitable organization given during or after a donor’s lifetime reduce the taxable portion of the estate, thus avoiding the maximum potential 55 percent estate tax. “I would rather give a dollar than pay 55 cents to Uncle Sam,” he said.
The bottom line for this savvy investor and philanthropist is investing in the next generation.
“It all starts with an education. That’s the foundation of any life,” he said. With his generous bequest, he will provide that foundation for countless students who follow in his footsteps at Oswego.