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MSRI Press Release (May 19, 2022)

Mathematical Sciences Research Institute Receives $70M Gift;
Largest Unrestricted Endowed Gift to a U.S.-Based Mathematics Institute

Name Change To Follow In Honor Of Donors James & Marilyn Simons, Henry & Marsha Laufer

From left to right: David Eisenbud, Director, MSRI; Marilyn Simons and James Simons; Henry Laufer and Marsha Laufer; Hélène Barcelo, Deputy Director, MSRI; and Tatiana Toro, Director-Elect, MSRI. Photo by Jason Maze.

May 19, 2022 (Berkeley, Calif.) – The Board of Trustees of Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) today announced it has received a transformational and unrestricted $70 million gift from two families and long- time MSRI supporters. The gift represents the largest endowment ever made to a U.S.-based institute dedicated to mathematics, and it significantly advances MSRI’s current endowment campaign goal of $100 million.

The donors – James and Marilyn Simons and Henry and Marsha Laufer – believe deeply in the mission and strategic vision of MSRI and have each committed $35 million to support the institute’s community-driven programs and initiatives both in Berkeley, where it is located, and worldwide.

“We have significantly evolved and grown as an institute since our founding in 1982, and so much more will be able to happen with these resources, for and with the math community, '' noted Dr. David Eisenbud, whose successful 20-year directorship of MSRI will conclude this July. “This unrestricted gift and the many others that are part of our endowment campaign will provide new programs, better support for researchers, and long term stability in funding. We are deeply grateful to the Simons and the Laufers for this generous endowment gift.”

Dr. James H. Simons is a renowned mathematician, philanthropist and investor, and former chair of the Simons Foundation. He and his wife, Dr. Marilyn H. Simons, an economist and philanthropist, were among the institute’s first donors upon its creation in 1982. The family has remained supportive of the institute’s programs and public outreach initiatives over its history. In 2007, the family made a $10 million gift to endow a professorship to support distinguished mathematicians visiting MSRI and an additional gift several years later to help launch the National Math Festival, the Mathical Book Prize for youth literature, and other programs that serve to raise the public profile of mathematics and to advance basic research.

Dr. Henry B. Laufer is a fellow mathematician, long-time colleague of Dr. James H. Simons, and former Vice President of Research at Simons’ Renaissance Technologies. He and his wife, Dr. Marsha Z. Laufer — renowned philanthropist, political activist, and speech-language pathologist — have supported MSRI for more than 20 years. The Laufers’ $35 million pledge is their largest gift to MSRI.

Their donations will be coupled with an additional $22 million in gifts from other donors, providing endowed funding that will support the institute’s research and programs.

“We are profoundly grateful for the role that math and sciences have played in our lives and we are honored to make this gift to MSRI,” said James and Marilyn Simons. “At Simons Foundation, we support outstanding research institutions around the world and MSRI is a great place to push the frontiers of knowledge.”

“For years, we have been impressed with MSRI’s dedication to elevating, amplifying and celebrating the mathematical sciences across the lifespan — from producing educational materials for PreK-12 educators, to fostering appreciation and enjoyment of mathematics through public outreach initiatives, all the way through to undergraduate and graduate student programs, post-doctoral fellowships, and beyond into professional applications and mentoring,” noted Henry and Marsha Laufer. “We are pleased that our gift to MSRI will allow the institute to continue in its mission and continue furthering research that will allow for the innovations of tomorrow.”

Inspired by the generosity of these families and their commitment to safeguarding the institute’s mission, MSRI also announced it will rename the institute to the Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute in honor of their transformational gift.

A preview of the new Simons Laufer Mathematical Sciences Institute mark.

The name change will officially take effect on August 1, and will slowly roll out over the course of the next several months. (Note: while our organizational name is slated to change, the names of our legacy programs will not.)

The gift and planned name change were revealed at MSRI’s annual Academic Sponsors meeting for university and institutional partners, at which MSRI also announced the public launch and celebration of its $100 million MSRI Endowment Campaign. The campaign is aligned with the institute’s 40th anniversary year and designed to bolster and sustain MSRI’s impact well into the future.

“By making this announcement at our annual Academic Sponsors meeting, we acknowledge that MSRI would not be here without the support of the community, which our Academic Sponsors represent,” added Dr. Tatiana Toro, Director-Elect of MSRI and the Craig McKibben & Sarah Merner Professor in the Department of Mathematics at the University of Washington, who will begin her directorship in August 2022. “In many ways, this gift is a re-commitment to our MSRI community, and sets us up for even greater impact in the years ahead. We are so very appreciative to the Simons and the Laufers for their remarkable generosity.”

Since its beginning, MSRI has been supported by the National Science Foundation, and was later joined by the National Security Agency, over 100 universities providing academic sponsorship, and by a range of private foundations and individuals.

The Simons’ and Laufer’s gifts come at a time of great opportunity for MSRI. Founded in 1982, the institute has become one of the world’s preeminent centers of research in the mathematical sciences. It has no permanent faculty, but hosts semester-long thematic scientific programs, conferences, and summer programs for graduate and undergraduate students. MSRI is committed to broadening participation in the mathematical sciences, and organizes programs including the award-winning MSRI-UP research experience for undergraduates from underrepresented minorities, the African Diaspora Joint Mathematics Workshop (ADJOINT), the Summer Research in Mathematics program which welcomes women and gender-expansive individuals, and more.

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The Mathematical Sciences Research Institute (MSRI) is a landmark of US and world collaborative mathematical research. Over 1,700 mathematical scientists spend time at MSRI’s Berkeley, California headquarters each year. It is a place where breakthroughs are made, research areas are created, and brilliant careers are launched. MSRI’s education and outreach programs and film production for public television reach millions worldwide. MSRI has been supported since its origins by the National Science Foundation, now joined by other government agencies, private foundations, corporations, individual donors, and over 100 academic institutions. Learn more at msri.org.

Contact Information

Jennifer Murawski, MSRI Communications Coordinator