(CNN) — Physics professor Vinod Menon doesn’t get a lot of mail at the office, so when the City College of New York (CCNY) returned to face-to-face classes this semester, he was greeted with some junk mail and an unmarked package in a box. of battered cardboard.
Menon, chair of the Physics Department at City College, at first thought it was some kind of memento sent by an alumnus, but when he opened the box on September 1, he found stacks of $ 50 and $ 100 bills, $ 180,000 in all. .
“I’ve never seen this kind of money in real life in cash,” Menon told CNN. “I had never seen it except in movies, so yeah, I was in shock and didn’t know how to react.”
There was an unsigned letter in the package explaining that the donor graduated “long ago” from The City College of New York with a double major in Physics and Mathematics, then earned a master’s degree in Physics there, and then went on to earn a double doctorate in Physics. and Astronomy.
“Assuming I am (a) little curious as to why I am doing this, the reason is simple: the excellent educational opportunity available to me, which I made the most of at City College (and Stuyvesant High School), gave me the foundation to continue developing, “the letter said.
The donor said they had had a “long, productive and immensely rewarding scientific career.”
The cash box weighed about 2 kilos and cost $ 90.8 to mail in and came out of Pensacola, Florida. It was delivered to the City College of New York on November 12, 2020, long after the school moved to distance learning in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Menon said he has been going to his lab fairly regularly during the pandemic, but not to the City College science building where he taught.
“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 that person’s life,” Menon said.
The letter asked that the money be used to help third and fourth year students who also major in Physics and Mathematics and who need financial support to continue their studies.
Menon said that when he realized how much money was in the box, he called the Dean of Science immediately and they contacted campus police and the department that handles the gifts.
Before the City College of New York could keep the money, officials had to make sure it was not the product of some kind of criminal activity.
Investigators from the school, the City University of New York (CUNY) system, the New York Police Department, the U.S. Postal Service, and the FBI and Treasury Department determined the money was clean. .
They couldn’t identify the donor; there was a name on the package, but it didn’t match anyone in the City College of New York alumni records. The return address didn’t solve the mystery either, Menon said.
Once they learned that the gift was legitimate, the CUNY board of directors voted unanimously on December 13 to pass a resolution accepting the money.
Board members marveled at the unprecedented gift during their meeting, with one suggesting that they bronze the box and display it as a tribute to the donor’s generosity and the honesty of the campus mail system.
Menon said he doesn’t know what happened to the box, but that his department will honor the anonymous donor’s wish to award two full-tuition scholarships each year.
Tuition at the City College of New York is about $ 7,500 per year, so the donation will fund the scholarships for a decade, Menon said.
“I would like you to know that we are grateful for the gift in the first place. I am truly honored that he or she has decided that this is the right place to spend that amount of money,” Menon said. “And I’m also proud of the fact that the person had a wonderful career based on the education he received at City College.”
Menon said they are still working on the details to create the scholarship, but the first students could receive it as early as the fall semester of 2022.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism