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September 23, 2018

Anonymous alumnus to bequeath $5 million to Oswego


OSWEGO — A native of Central New York who used a math degree from SUNY Oswego to make a fortune in the real estate business has informed the college of his intention to bequeath approximately $5 million to his alma mater in support of the Possibility Scholars program.

Current Possibility Scholars gather in a SUNY Oswego computer science lab. Seated are sophomore computer science major Sean Willson, left, of Syracuse and freshman applied mathematics major and computer science minor Sanjeev Kumar of Syracuse. Standing from left are sophomore biology major Aaron Matthews of Syracuse, sophomore zoology major Nicole VanDeuson of Syracuse and freshman zoology major Katrina Debaun of Oswego.

Current Possibility Scholars gather in a SUNY Oswego computer science lab. Seated are sophomore computer science major Sean Willson, left, of Syracuse and freshman applied mathematics major and computer science minor Sanjeev Kumar of Syracuse. Standing from left are sophomore biology major Aaron Matthews of Syracuse, sophomore zoology major Nicole VanDeuson of Syracuse and freshman zoology major Katrina Debaun of Oswego.

It is the largest planned gift in the school’s history and will affect the lives of generations of students who otherwise might not be able to afford a college education. By supporting math and science education for New York state students, the gift will potentially lift the whole area economically.

At the donor’s request, his identity will remain anonymous.

“This is a transformative gift that will make individual dreams come true and can help boost the economy of our state,” said SUNY Oswego President Deborah F. Stanley. “With this gift, our generous donor is opening the door to a college education and a better life for many of our future students.”

Speaking for the Oswego College Foundation, Mark Tryniski said, “We are very grateful to this anonymous donor for entrusting SUNY Oswego with his legacy. The board of directors will steward this extremely generous gift with the utmost care, to make the donor’s dream of helping future Oswego students in math and science a continuing reality.”

Tryniski, a 1985 graduate of Oswego, is chairman of the board of directors of the foundation, the fundraising arm of the public college.

Encouraging math

Possibility Scholarships provides talented students from New York state who want to study in the science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields with the financial help they need to attend SUNY Oswego.

The alumnus made clear that his intention is to promote the study of math, which he feels is crucial to success in most fields. “Math is a universal language and supports every other subject,” the donor said. “Regardless of what career path one takes, a strong math background is important to excel.”

As a soldier toward the end of the Vietnam War, he used his math skills to help the Pentagon determine which troops to bring home first. After his service, he began a career in real estate, where math again helped him succeed. “I made most of my money from real estate investing,” he said. “Math was very instrumental in helping me to evaluate investments.”

The donor wants to keep America more competitive in the global economy, he said, by reversing a trend toward the acceptance of poor math skills in this country’s students.

Full scholarships

The alumnus focused his generosity on Possibility Scholarships because they cover all tuition, fees, and room and board, in coordination with any other grants or scholarships awarded, for qualifying students for four full years.

The donor knows how important such aid can be.

A Regents Scholar, he worked hard to pay his way through college. Scrubbing pots and pans in the dining hall, serving as resident assistant in a Lakeside residence hall and bartending at a local establishment helped him pay for his college education.

The Possibility Scholarship’s tuition benefit “takes away one more fear or impediment to concentrating,” he said. “Most people, when they have problems in life, it is usually financially originated. Remove that element and it makes people’s lives more stress free.”

The alumnus said he wants to give back to Oswego because of the great experience he had at the college, and he wants to help others — who might not otherwise be able to afford higher education — to have the same great experience.

Supporting study abroad

He made the most of his time at Oswego as a very active student, taking part in varied and enriching experiences, including student media.

A third-generation American, he formed a bond with a foreign language professor, Dr. Joseph Wiecha, who helped him get a scholarship to study one summer in the land of his ancestors. “I considered that the highlight of my life, going over there,” he said.

Possibility Scholars travel to one of several Global Laboratory partners that Oswego has around the world to study and work on science projects with researchers in their fields.

Despite wanting his name kept private for now, the donor said he hopes that his gift will inspire others to support Oswego and its students with an estate gift, especially since state budget support for the college is diminishing.

“You have to give back, especially if Oswego’s been good to you,” he said.

Investing in education

He also pointed out that bequests to a charitable organization given during or after a donor’s lifetime reduce the taxable portion of the estate, thus avoiding the maximum potential 55 percent estate tax. “I would rather give a dollar than pay 55 cents to Uncle Sam,” he said.

The bottom line for this savvy investor and philanthropist is investing in the next generation.

“It all starts with an education. That’s the foundation of any life,” he said. With his generous bequest, he will provide that foundation for countless students who follow in his footsteps at Oswego.

2 Responses “Anonymous alumnus to bequeath $5 million to Oswego”

  1. April 27, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I, too, was the recipient of a four year scholarship. My donor was the Rosamond Gifford Foundation. To the recent donor, I can say that this college opportunity made all the difference in my life. Although my degree was not as financially lucrative (actually, my degree was not financially lucrative at all, ;0) ), my liberal arts degree altered how I view the world, how I live my life. I would probably be a philanthropist, if my job warranted it, and actually, I give a pretty high percentage of my disposable income to charities, and causes that I believe benefit my community. We also chose to adopt a child from a failing nation two decades ago, and I think this helped not only us in our desire to parent, but also the individual she became. She, in turn, donated almost a decade of her own life to our military.

    I praise you for your endeavor to help future generations. Math is definitely a subject that will address a wide-spectrum of future lifestyles, not least of which are in real estate development (!).

    Thank you from a member of your generation, and your community!

  2. John Wiecha, MD, MPH
    April 28, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    As one of the sons of Dr. Joseph Wiecha, it is very gratifying to see my father mentioned in the context of this generous donation. Thank you to the donor. I am sure my father would love to personally acknowledge the gift of this remarkable person. If so, I’m sure this could be arranged- my father is in regular communication with many of his past students.

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