Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXV, No. 34
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
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$100 Million Challenge Grant Is Awarded To Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study

Anne Levin

The Institute for Advanced Study has received a $100 million unrestricted challenge grant from the Simons Foundation and the Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences. This donation, which is the largest since the founders’ gift establishing the Institute in 1930, will serve as the basis for a $200 million campaign to strengthen the Institute’s endowment. This grant must be matched by funds from donors within the next four years; additional gifts and pledges of $9 million have already been received.

A recent press release noted that the $200 million campaign “will ensure that the Institute is able to continue its essential role in fostering fundamental research that advances our understanding of the world.” The main goal of the campaign, they reported, is to raise new endowment funds that will allow the Institute to “keep its draw on the endowment at an acceptable level over the long term. The stability and health of the Institute’s endowment is essential for its financial independence because the institution relies on endowment income for approximately three quarters of its operating expenses.”

This campaign will build upon the successful completion of the Institute’s most recent campaign, launched in 2004, which raised $135 million from more than 1,500 donors, including trustees, faculty, staff, former Institute scholars, Friends of the Institute, foundations and donor-advised funds, and others.

“The Institute is immensely grateful to the Simons Foundation and the Simonyi Fund for this extremely generous and far-sighted donation, which is of historic importance for the Institute,” stated Institute Director Peter Goddard. “The Institute was founded in 1930 by Caroline and Louis Bamberger, enlightened philanthropists who believed in the need to provide the world’s leading scholars with the support and facilities that would enable them to pursue curiosity-driven research that would enlarge our understanding of the world, leading to both cultural and practical benefits for mankind. Their vision is as relevant today as it was 80 years ago, and this magnificent challenge grant initiates a campaign that will ensure that the Institute will be able to fulfill its mission in the future, sustaining a unique scholarly environment and providing researchers drawn from institutions around the world with the freedom they need for fundamental research.”

Both organizations have provided significant support to the Institute in the past decade. The Simons Foundation has funded a number of Institute initiatives, especially in the School of Natural Sciences’ Simons Center for Systems Biology, which opened in 2007. The Center was named in honor of Jim and Marilyn Simons in recognition of the Foundation’s challenge grant that provided support for operational costs and the establishment of an endowment fund. Mr. Simons is a Vice Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and a Trustee since 2001.

He is the president of Euclidean Capital, and Board Chair of Renaissance Technologies LLC, a quantitative investment firm that hires PhD’s instead of MBA’s and uses algorithms to exploit subtle mispricings in stock, bond, and commodities markets. Mr. Simons retired from the company in 2009 after many years as its chief executive officer. Early in his career, he was a cryptanalyst at the Institute of Defense Analyses in Princeton, and taught mathematics at Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard University. He is said to have cracked codes for the U.S. Department of Defense during the Vietnam War.

The Charles and Lisa Simonyi Fund for Arts and Sciences was established by Charles Simonyi, Chairman of the Institute’s Board of Trustees and a Trustee since 1997. Mr. Simonyi donated the lead gift toward the Institute’s previous capital campaign, establishing the Karoly Simonyi Memorial Endowment Fund in memory of his late father. Mr. Simonyi endowed the Charles Simonyi Professorship in Theoretical Physics in 1997, held first and currently by Edward Witten, and has also provided support to the Institute’s School of Mathematics. Simonyi Hall, the building that houses the School, was dedicated in 2000 in recognition of Mr. Simonyi’s commitment to the work of the Institute.

An experienced pilot, Mr. Simonyi was the fifth civilian space flight traveler. He journeyed to the International Space Station in 2007, chronicling his trip on a website. The Simonyi Fund also contributes significantly to the arts. Recent recipients of grants include The Metropolitan Opera, and several organizations in Seattle, Washington, where Mr. Simonyi is based, including the Seattle Symphony, Seattle Opera, and Seattle Art Museum.

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