Package forgotten in college turns out to be $180k cash donation from mystery donor

Package forgotten in college turns out to be $180k cash donation from mystery donor
Anonymous donor wants money to be used for needy and deserving physics and maths students

An anonymous package was gathering dust for nearly a year during the coronavirus pandemic at a college in New York. When it was finally opened after in-person classes resumed, a professor found $180,000 (£135,400) in cash.

Dr Vinod Menon, chairman of the physics department at the City College of New York in Harlem, returned to the institution on 1 September after a year of online classes.

He looked through the pile of office mail and found a big cardboard box. It was postmarked 10 November 2020 and was addressed to the chairman of the physics department. Dr Menon initially thought it was a token of thanks from a student. But on opening it, he found $50 and $100 bills bundled in paper bands, worth $180,000 in total.

“It was a complete shock — I know a lot of academics and I’ve never heard of anything like this,” Dr Menon told TheNew York Times. “I didn’t know if the college accepted cash, so I didn’t know if they’d keep it.”

Upon closer look, the baffled lecturer found an enclosed letter that said the cash was a donation for needy and deserving physics and maths students at the college.

The anonymous donor said they were a student of the college who had earned a double major in math and physics. They said that studying there had led them to “a long, productive, immensely rewarding scientific career”.

“Assuming that you are (a) bit curious as to why I am doing this, the reason is straightforward: 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 donor said.

The box weighed 4 pounds, 8 ounces (a little more than 2kg) and was heavy enough to cost $90.8 postal charge to send by two-day priority mail from Pensacola, Florida.

The short letter was unsigned, and the name on the return address was Kyle Paisley. There was no person by that name in the college’s records.

Dr Menon said the donation’s value was less about the money and more “a testament to what the physics department has been providing all these years”.

“It’s crazy that it just sat in the mailroom, or even that it was sent by mail — the person trusted the system so much,” said Dr Menon, adding that he is thankful for the gift and honoured that the person chose the City College.

As the annual tuition fee at the college is $7,500, the donation would help many and can be used in granting future scholarships, Dr Menon said.