Stony Brook University has announced a $25 million gift from alumna Marilyn Hawrys Simons ('74, PhD '84), co-founder and president of the Simons Foundation, in support of efforts to increase diversity in the field of economics.
With the aim of developing opportunities in the field for underrepresented minorities and women, the gift will fund a new Center for Applied Economics and Public Policy, efforts to recruit and retain female and minority senior and mid-career faculty, and a new PhD Diversity Fellows Program. The gift is believed to be the largest to a public university economics department in the United States and one of the largest focused on addressing a lack of diversity in economics. Combined with a commitment of additional faculty and support for graduate students by the university, the total impact of the gift will exceed $30 million.
Currently only about a third of economics doctorates awarded in the United States annually are awarded to women and/or members of racial and ethnic minorities, with African Americans and Latinos particularly underrepresented. Simons herself was the first woman in her family to go to college and went on to earn a PhD in economics; her father was a bricklayer who helped build some of the original structures on the Stony Brook campus and later received cancer care at Stony Brook University Hospital.
Simons and her husband, Jim — whom she met when she was a student and he was chair of the math department at Stony Brook — and their foundation have donated more than $400 million to the university. A gala held in her honor earlier this month raised an additional $3.2 million in support of scholarships.
"For my family, the university has been transformational," said Simons. "So, I'm privileged to be able to give something back to help ensure that others — and particularly women and students from underrepresented communities — may be similarly transformed by a Stony Brook experience."
"I am humbled by Marilyn's vision, generosity, and confidence in Stony Brook," said Stony Brook University president Samuel L. Stanley, Jr. "She gives us the courage to take risks and overcome boundaries in our effort to advance knowledge. She builds opportunity for those whose horizons would otherwise be limited. And she amplifies our ability to educate the next generation of thoughtful leaders."
(Photo credit: Stony Brook University)