When class of 1947 alumnus William Newman made a $5 million gift to his alma mater in 1993, its impact was immediate and seismic. At the time, it was the second-largest gift ever received by The City University of New York (CUNY), surpassed only by the 1965 bequest from the College’s namesake, Bernard M. Baruch.
It was also symbolic. In the early nineties, CUNY was devastated by budget cuts and beleaguered by hostile press. Mr. Newman’s gift changed the narrative overnight. Major news outlets covered the story, and the entire Baruch community felt a renewed sense of optimism and belonging. The gift, which clearly demonstrated the alumnus’s respect for and confidence in Baruch students and the College’s mission, was a ringing endorsement of public higher education.
Recalling that moment, Lawrence Zicklin (’57, LHD-Hon. ’99), Zicklin School of Business namesake and benefactor, calls his friend a “voice in the wilderness” and a “visionary,” adding, “Bill understood that this school is a beacon for so many who are poor, first generation, or of immigrant status.”
Newman’s reasons for giving to Baruch were simple: gratitude for the fine education he and his family had received (his parents and older brother attended what was then City College School of Business and Civic Administration) as well as a desire to help the next generation. Over the years and during the course of many transformational gifts—among them, the Steven L. Newman Real Estate Institute and Steven L. Newman Hall, both named to honor his late son; the William Newman Department of Real Estate; and perhaps most spectacularly, the William and Anita Newman Vertical Campus (NVC), the College’s academic hub—those reasons never changed.
“There are few things more important to our nation than the education of our young people. That is why I am pleased to return, in part, the great gift of education that members of my family received from this wonderful school.” – Bill Newman (1926-2019)
Bill Newman enrolled at Baruch at age 15, interrupting his accountancy studies two years later to serve in the Navy during WWII. When he graduated and joined his father’s accounting firm, his true business talents emerged. He built the firm into one of the nation’s largest real estate corporations. As founder, CEO, and chairman of New Plan Excel Realty Trust, Inc., he was awarded the Wall Street Transcript’s gold, silver, and bronze medals for national leadership in the real estate industry.
Newman set out to improve the campus and students’ lives with the same foresight and vision he had used to grow his father’s business. His commitment to giving back was recognized by both the CUNY Board of Trustees, which in 1994 voted to name Baruch’s new library the William and Anita Newman Library in honor of the alumnus and his wife, and the College, which awarded him an honorary doctoral degree in 1997 and the President’s Medal in 2012.
For Irwin Engelman (’55, LLD-Hon. ’00), longtime Baruch College Fund (BCF) trustee and friend, Newman remains the inspiration and backbone of the BCF renaissance. “Bill Newman’s major gifts set a high standard that other donors were motivated to emulate. He was the BCF.” In excess of $40 million, the Newmans’ generosity represents one of the largest philanthropic legacies to any college in the CUNY system.
Says College President Mitchel B. Wallerstein, PhD, “The Newman name, like that of our namesake, Bernard Baruch, has become synonymous with this institution. Everywhere that it graces our campus buildings and programs, it honors a generous and visionary alumnus with an unflagging belief in higher education as the catalyst for social mobility and the American dream.” President Wallerstein adds, “William Newman set the example for private philanthropy to a public institution, and in doing so, he helped to chart a course that has enabled Baruch to excel.”