Menon, the chairman of the physics department, initially thought it was some kind of keepsake sent by a former student, but when he opened the box on September 1, he found piles of $ 50 and $ 100 bills – $ 180,000 in all.
“I’ve never seen that kind of money in real life in the form of cash,” Menon told CNN. “I’ve never seen him except in the movies, and so, yeah, I was in shock and just didn’t know how to react.”
There was an unsigned letter in the package explaining that the donor “a long time ago” obtained a double degree in physics and mathematics from the City College of New York, then obtained a master’s degree in physics there and obtained a double doctorate in physics. and astronomy.
“Assuming you’re (a little) curious as to why I’m doing this, the reason is simple: the excellent educational opportunity available to me – which I took full advantage of at CCNY (and Stuyvesant High School) – gave me the basis to continue to develop, ”the letter says.
The donor said they have had “a long, productive and extremely rewarding scientific career.”
Menon said he visited his lab quite regularly during the pandemic, but not the science building where he taught classes.
“Seeing the money was a shock. Reading the letter really made me proud and happy to belong to this institution, which really made a difference in this person’s life,” said Menon.
The letter called for the money to be used to help junior and senior students also dual specializing in physics and mathematics who need financial support to continue their education.
Menon said he immediately called the dean of science and they contacted campus police and the department that handles gifts when they realized how much money they had.
Before the CCNY could hold onto the money, authorities had to ensure that it was not the proceeds of some sort of criminal activity.
Investigators from the school, the New York City University (CUNY) system, the NYPD, the US Postal Service, the FBI and the Treasury Department determined the money was clean.
They were unable to identify the donor – there was a name on the packaging, but it did not match anyone in the CCNY alumni files. The return address also didn’t solve the mystery, Menon said.
The board members marveled at the incredible gift during their meeting and one of them suggested that they tan the box and display it as a tribute to the donor’s generosity and the honesty of the mail system of the campus.
Menon said he didn’t know what happened to the box, but that his department would honor the anonymous donor’s wish by awarding two full scholarships each year.
Tuition at CCNY is around $ 7,500 per year, so the giveaway will fund scholarships for a decade, Menon said.
“I would like them to know that first of all we are grateful for the gift. I am truly honored that he or she has decided that this is the right place to spend that kind of money,” Menon said. . “And I’m also proud of the fact that the person has had a wonderful career based on the education they received at City College.”
Menon said they are still working on the details of creating the scholarship, but the first students may receive it as early as the fall semester of 2022.