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What’s in a Name? For Paul Smith’s College About $20M

Joan WeillJoan Weill

Paul Smith’s College in upstate New York is awaiting a court decision that it hopes will allow it to rename itself for the sake of a donation of $20 million from a longtime board member.

The school, home to about 1,000 undergraduate students, was founded in 1937 on land in the Adirondacks left to it by Phelps Smith, who stipulated that it had to be named after his father in perpetuity. Now, the school wants to be renamed Joan Weill-Paul Smith’s College in honor of the wife of Citigroup creator Sandy Weill, and the school’s board of trustees said in a letter that it welcomes the change in light of “two decades of volunteer leadership and unprecedented financial support from philanthropists Joan and Sanford Weill.”

The college said the Weills had already donated $10 million and helped raise $30 million from other donors over the past 20 years. Joan Weill has been a trustee for 19 years, and the school’s library is named for her. The Weills are known for their philanthropy; for example, having given $350 million to Cornell University in 1998 and establishing the Weill Cornell Medical College.

According to a CNNMoney report, more than 3,300 current students, faculty and alumni have signed an online petition opposing the name modification.

State court Judge John Ellis held a hearing on the issue Tuesday but has not announced a decision.

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