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Weills boost campaign with $170M cash payment of pledge

Agreeing to a request by Cornell's leadership, major benefactors Joan and Sanford I. Weill and the Weill Family Foundation have accelerated a previous pledge to the university with a $170 million cash payment. Their donation will aid the $4 billion campaign, including Weill Cornell Medical College's (WCMC) $1.3 billion "Discoveries That Make a Difference" fundraising drive.

Campus officials noted that the Weills' cash payment will provide a decisive boost to the medical college's capital campaign at a time when the university's endowment has been significantly diminished by the current economic challenges.

The Weills' pledge, made in 2007 as a bequest to the university, is believed to be the single largest gift given to a medical college in the United States.

In completing their gift in December and January, the Weills created the Weill Challenge, which will raise up to $203 million in additional gifts that exclusively support construction of the medical college's new research building. This state-of-the-art facility will more than double the institution's existing laboratory space; it is scheduled to break ground later this year in New York City on East 69th Street between York and First Avenues.

"On behalf of Cornell University, the chairman of our board of trustees, Peter C. Meinig, and I approached Joan and Sandy Weill and asked them to consider giving a cash gift now," said President David J. Skorton. "The Weills are fully aware that philanthropy -- now, more than ever -- is critical to the advancement of Weill Cornell and its research enterprise. As such, they enthusiastically agreed. Today, they once again demonstrate both their unwavering commitment to Cornell and their particular skill at inspiring others to action."

Sanford Weill '55, who is chairman of the WCMC Board of Overseers, stated: "The world has changed in the past six months. In order to ensure that the research building project moves forward, we decided to make our gift available to other donors who may be holding back. It is our hope that this decision will encourage everyone to join us in support of superior medical education, first-class research and superb clinical care."

As part of the Weill Challenge, for every $1.50 given to the research building, the Weill family will allocate $1 from their gift, so that new donors can have naming opportunities in the building at a meaningful discount. When successfully completed, the challenge is expected to raise an additional $200 million, on top of the Weills' gift.

"We are enormously grateful to Joan and Sandy Weill for everything they have done for Weill Cornell Medical College, helping put this institution on the map for innovation and biomedical discovery and fulfilling our mission to promote healing here in New York and around the globe," said Dr. Antonio M. Gotto Jr., the Stephen and Suzanne Weiss Dean of WCMC.

Of the Weills' $170 million cash gift, $15 million will be applied to research collaborations between the campuses in Ithaca and New York City, and to the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Institute for Cell and Molecular Biology at Cornell.

The medical college's new research building is central to advancing WCMC's tripartite mission of education, research and clinical care. The $650 million, 16-floor facility will have an open floor plan to facilitate communication and collaboration. Its proximity to the Weill Greenberg Center, WCMC's new ambulatory care facility, will foster translational research aimed at advancing patient care.

To date, the Weills and the Weill Family Foundation have given more than $500 million to Cornell.

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Simeon Moss