NYU Polytechnic School of Engineering in Downtown Brooklyn has changed its name to NYU Tandon School of Engineering after receiving a $100 million donation from Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon, the university announced on Monday.
The gift will support faculty hiring and academic programs at the engineering school historically known as Polytechnic University, NYU said.
The donors have challenged the school to raise an additional, separate $50 million, which will be focused on scholarship aid.
President John Sexton and Katepalli R. Sreenivasan, dean of the School of Engineering, made the announcement.
Opening in 1854 as Brooklyn Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute, the school changed its name to Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn in 1889. The school became known as Polytechnic Institute of New York in 1973, and Polytechnic University in 1985.
“Ranjan and I are great believers in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] education, in the applied sciences, and in the analytic and creative disciplines that such an education develops,” Chandrika Tandon said in a release. “And we want to give back to the city that has given us so much.”
Chandrika Tandon is a member of the Board of Overseers of NYU’s business school and a member of the NYU Board of Trustees. She is chair of Tandon Capital Associates, a financial advisory firm she founded in 1992. She also is a Grammy-nominated musician, with album “Soul Call” nominated for Best Contemporary World Music in 2011.
Her husband, Ranjan Tandon, is an engineer by training and a graduate of the Harvard Business School. He is founder and chair of Libra Advisors, a hedge fund he founded in 1990 that is now a family office.
According to NYU, the Tandons’ donation is believed to be the largest philanthropic gift by a member of the Indian-American community.
President Sexton said the gift would take the school “to the next level of excellence,” would reach beyond NYU to boost Brooklyn’s growing tech sector, and have an impact on challenges throughout the world.
Concern over loss of ‘Polytechnic’ name
The gift was widely applauded in the NYU Poly community. Board members called it “extraordinary.” NYU Board of Trustees Chair Martin Lipton said that Chandrika Tandon “stands out among the trustees not just for her extraordinary generosity, and not just for the conviction she so clearly demonstrates in the School of Engineering’s bright future, but also for her selfless involvement with the University community.”
He added, “It is only fitting that the school will bear the name of people who are so visionary.”
But some were not entirely thrilled with the loss of the historic Polytechnic name.
“It’s a shame because Poly has such a rich history,” a second-year mechanical engineering student who did not wish to be named told the Brooklyn Eagle. “It’s good to get more funding … but the Polytechnic name has been around for 150 years.”
Computer science major Radha Krishnan, however, said he was fine with the name change. “Anyway, I’m coming to NYU. I’d rather say NYU than Poly.”
George Likourezos, former President of the Polytechnic Alumni Association during the NYU-Polytechnic University affiliation, said that the gift was exciting news, especially because the donation is from an immigrant.
“Throughout its history, Brooklyn Poly, as it came to be known, was a shining light for immigrants and first generation children, like myself,” he said.
He added, however, that he wanted to keep the Polytechnic name alive.
“I just hoped … that the name Polytechnic also stayed on the school’s name,” he said. “It defines the school’s long history and traditions as a beacon of light to immigrants and first generation students who became engineers and scientists—they shaped our country and world.”
Dean Sreenivasan told alumni in a follow-up email on Tuesday that he had visited the Polytechnic Institute Alumni Association board on September 29, chaired by President Gerry Dawes, and made a similar statement.
“I did so because I understand the value and importance of the legacy of Polytechnic; we will strive to protect the values of what made this place special,” the Dean said.
He added, “I am committed to engaging the alumni in thinking further about how best to maintain the spirit of Polytechnic, and am willing to explore possibilities other than changing the name again from NYU Tandon.” He said the school was discussing with the Alumni Relations Office a possible date for an alumni town hall meeting, and urged patience.
Dean Sreenivasan told the alumni that the school would “explore with you possible ways by which Polytechnic’s name and history can persist through the future.”