Thursday, October 08, 2015

Philanthropy's Name Game Takes a Hit

"Can you tell me the way to the lecture in Higglestone Center?"
"Yes, sir. Continue down Bubba Burns Hall to Axel Turner Door. Turn the Emma Branson Doorknob and walk through to the Prince Abbadabba Arcade. Follow the Arcade to  the Jim and Patsy Gotrocks Archway. You'll see Higglestone on your right, just beyond the Hugh Networthy Terrace."
The Name Game has gotten out of hand. Donors expect their names on buildings and wings of buildings and floors and rooms and equipment and playing fields and (excuse the expression) you name it.

Worse, old donor names are being replaced by new ones. At New York's Lincoln Center (not yet renamed Trump Center) Avery Fisher Hall just turned into David Geffen Hall.

Now comes a possible road block. A New York Court just ruled that Paul Smith's College may not change its name in order to qualify for a $20 million gift from Joan Weill, wife of Sandy Weill, the retired Citi tycoon.

The college, situated within Adirondack Park, was created more than 75 years ago with a bequest from Phelps Smith. His will required the school to “be forever known” as Paul Smith’s College of Arts and Sciences, in honor of his father.

The Weills, philanthropists par excellence, deserve lasting recognition. However, they already have their names on numerous benefactions. Does the court decision suggest that the Name Game may be reaching its limits? Or will "lasting recognition" become merely temporary?

Paul Smith's College

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