Alums Toby and Leon Cooperman Give Hunter Record $25 Million
Toby and Leon G. Cooperman, both from the Bronx, both graduates of Hunter's Class of 1964, recently gave their alma mater $25 million, the largest donation ever given to the College. Part of the gift—$15 million—will go toward the Leon and Toby Cooperman Library, and $10 million will seed a scholarship fund.
Library Renovation Progressing
"With the Coopermans' gift," said Hunter President Jennifer J. Raab, "the library—which will cost a total of $45 million—is now only $9 million short of its goal." The multistory East Building of the 68th Street campus has been under renovation and reconstruction since July 2012, and is one of the largest—and most needed—construction projects in Hunter's history.
The Coopermans' scholarship fund will provide money to talented, financially needy students who have exhausted all other sources of financial aid. This fund, said Raab, "is going to be absolutely a game changer" for the College's efforts to recruit and support gifted students.
The couple, who went to Hunter's Bronx campus—now Lehman College, also part of CUNY—met in French class. Their first date was the junior prom—she asked him—and they married the same year they graduated. Their gift, they've said, is a way to celebrate both their 50th wedding anniversary and their 50th Hunter reunion.
Not Born to Riches
Leon Cooperman, the billionaire chairman and chief executive of Omega Advisors, a New York hedge fund, had a 25-year career at Goldman Sachs, but came from very modest circumstances, growing up with his brother in a one-bedroom apartment—their father a plumber who immigrated to New York at the age of 13.
Toby Cooperman, who recently retired from a career as a special-education specialist, is the daughter of a man who sold bed linens. Leon and Toby both attended public schools before going to Hunter, where he majored in chemistry and she got her degree in history.
Both showed early signs of ambition, talent, and the promise of a successful future while still in school: she was president of the class and he was vice president.