Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is one of the largest academic institutional donors to the international philanthropic organization founded by former President Bill Clinton.
The William J. Clinton Foundation — at the prodding of President-elect Barak Obama’s administration — earlier this month released a complete list of its nearly 200,000 financial contributors. The disclosure, which was part of the vetting process for Sen. Hillary Clinton's appointment as secretary of state, revealed the heavy support the 42nd president’s charity has received from corporations, foreign governments and wealthy backers.
Schools also opened their wallets for the Clinton Foundation. RPI was one of the smallest higher education institutions in terms of student enrollment that gave more than $25,000 to the charity. According to the contributor list, RPI donated between $25,000 and $50,000, putting it in the same category with the much larger Georgetown University, University of Iowa and University of Cambridge.
The technical school, which started the 2007-2008 school year with 7,300 students, donated more to the Clinton Foundation than some of the nation’s most prestigious schools. Donations from Brown University, Columbia University and the University of California at Los Angeles put the schools in the $10,000 to $25,000 donor category.
Clinton’s organization, which has mounted initiatives to fight everything from world hunger to global warming, released its contributor list a week before RPI President Shirley Ann Jackson warned faculty and staff about looming layoffs as stock market turmoil battered the university’s endowment. That endowment, which stood at $813 million in 2007, had lost $5 million by last month.
The university last week informed the state Department of Labor of its plans to lay off 98 workers.
“As the economy has worsened, and we have analyzed how it has affected, and will continue to affect, Rensselaer, we have determined that it will not be possible to reduce the budget sufficiently without reducing our recurring compensation expenses, which make up half of the institute’s operating budget. Staffing reductions will be necessary,” Jackson said in a Dec. 11 letter to RPI employees.
Jackson became RPI’s 18th president in 1999. She came to the university after a four-year stint as chairwoman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which is charged with protecting public health and national security by licensing and regulating nuclear reactor waste materials. She holds a doctorate in theoretical elementary particle physics.
A Clinton Foundation spokesman declined to specify exactly how much and when RPI gave to the charity. It is not clear whether Jackson played any role in the university’s donation to the foundation, which Bill Clinton founded in 1997. RPI spokesman Jason Gorss did not immediately return a call.
Other universities that exceeded RPI’s contribution were the University of Florida, University of Southern California and Drew University, which were listed in the $50,000 to $100,000 category. The biggest academic institutional donors were the University of Judaism and Hamilton College, located near Utica.