by LESLIE CHURCH
The Rockefeller Board of Trustees has conferred its highest honor — one that has been given only twice previously — on James Simons, the philanthropist, mathematician and investment manager who has served on the univeristy’s Board since 2000. For his exceptional service to Rockefeller, Dr. Simons was elected a life trustee, a position shared with David Rockefeller, who was elected in 1995. Brooke Astor, the only other Board member to be named a life trustee, held the position from 1983 until her death in 2007.
The Board also named Patricia Rosenwald an emeritus trustee in honor of her contributions to the university.
“Life trusteeship is a significant honor that Jim richly deserves,” says Russell Carson, chair of the Board. “He has served with great distinction on the Board and has made transformative gifts to Rockefeller, responding with extraordinary generosity to many institutional needs that arose over the course of his Trusteeship.”
Dr. Simons served as vice chair of the investment committee of the Board from 2005 to 2012, helping to guide the management of the university’s endowment. He and his wife, Marilyn, who heads the Simons Foundation, are among the most active and supportive members of the university’s philanthropic community in its history. Last year, they were each awarded an honorary degree at the university’s annual Convocation ceremony — the first couple to be recognized in this way.
Dr. Simons’s success in finance, as founder and former CEO of the investment company Renaissance Technologies, has its roots in his academic past. He earned a bachelor of science degree in math from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and at age 23 graduated with a Ph.D. in math from the University of California, Berkeley. He went on to teach math at MIT and Harvard University, and later worked with a U.S. Department of Defense think tank at Princeton University as a cryptanalyst during the Vietnam War. At the State University of New York at Stony Brook, Dr. Simons was chair of the mathematics department and a leader in the field of differential geometry. Renaissance Technologies, founded in 1982, was the first investment firm to use quantitative analysis to make investment decisions, propelling the company to the top of the industry.
Science and math education and research play a central role in Dr. Simons’s many philanthropic endeavors, including his creation of the Math for America program, which aims to improve such education in public schools. Through the Simons Foundation, he has been a champion for autism research in Rockefeller labs and elsewhere. He also serves on the boards of the Institute for Advanced Study, MIT and Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Both Dr. Simons and Ms. Rosenwald were elected to their new titles at the Board’s June 5, 2013 meeting. Ms. Rosenwald, who has been a trustee since 2007, was cited for her generous service to the Hospital and Educational Affairs Committees and the many gifts she has made personally or generated for the university from friends and foundations. “Pat has been in every way an outstanding and committed ambassador for Rockefeller,” says Mr. Carson.