Mystery Donor Sends $180K in Cash to Physics Department

Cardboard box at City College New York wasn't opened for more than 10 months
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 22, 2021 1:29 PM CST
Physics Department Gets Mysterious $180K Cash Donation
Federal agents determined that the cash was not connected to criminal activity.   (Getty Images/Valeriya)

A plain cardboard box around the size of a toaster addressed to "Chairman, Physics Department" at City College of New York held a mysterious $180,000 cash donation—but it wasn't opened for more than 10 months. The department's chair, physics professor Vinod Menon, says he didn't find the box until Sept. 1 this year, after the college returned to in-person classes. It had been delivered on Nov. 12, 2020, CNN reports. The cash came with an unsigned note that said the sender had had "a long, productive, immensely rewarding" scientific career after graduating from CCNY "long ago" with bachelor's and master's degrees in physics.

The box, so heavy that postage cost $90, was delivered to CCNY on Nov. 12 last year. "It was a complete shock—I know a lot of academics and I’ve never heard of anything like this," Menon tells the New York Times. "I didn’t know if the college accepted cash, so I didn’t know if they’d keep it." He turned the box over to authorities and university officials contacted federal agents to see if the cash came from criminal activity, the Times reports. The name on the return address, Kyle Bailey, did not exist in college records and the address, a house in Florida, had no apparent connection to the donation. After agents determined that the cash had been withdrawn from banks in Maryland in recent years and wasn't connected to crime, the college's Board of Trustees voted to accept the gift on Dec. 13.

At the board meeting, one member suggested that the box be bronzed and put in a display case. In the note, the mystery donor asked for the money to be used to support students majoring in physics and math. Menon says the cash will fund two full scholarships for more than a decade. "I'd like them to know that firstly, we are thankful for the gift. I'm really honored that he or she decided that this was the right place to spend that kind of money on," Menon says. "And I'm also proud of the fact that the person had a wonderful career based on the education that they received at City College." (Earlier this year, a former student who dropped out of Morgan State University in 1963 because of a lack of funds pledged $20 million to the school.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.