Back in July, Joan Weill, the wife of Citigroup billionaire Sandy Weill, announced that they would donate $20 million to a small, cash-strapped school called Paul Smith's College in New York's Adirondack Mountains with one big string attached: She insisted that the school would have to be renamed in her honor, to be known forever as Joan Weill-Paul Smith's College.
"I got a lot of wonderful letters that were sent to me personally by alums and students and of course members of the faculty and the board, understanding why this was happening," Weill says.
Weill is a former trustee of the school, which sits miles from the nearest town and specializes in forestry and hospitality programs. She's given big gifts in the past, and she argued that with her name given top billing, more donors around the country would open their wallets. Paul Smith's President Cathy Dove negotiated the name change in secret and announced the rebranding of the school to alumni as a done deal.
"I truly respect the wishes of the donor and in this case this was also a very complex issue, and yes, I think it was the appropriate thing to do, understanding that this would be a very emotional reaction," Dove says.