One of the largest anonymous donations received by the University in the past 50 years comes from the family of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg for the new ellipse dormitory, the University confirmed this week.
The gift — the amount of which remains undisclosed — will partially pay for the $36 million dormitory on the southwest corner of campus.
Until now, the Bloomberg gift remained a secret. The announcement of the gift and the plan to name the dorm after daughter Emma Bloomberg '01 would probably have come later in the spring, said Vice President for Development Brian McDonald '83.
The future Emma B. Bloomberg Hall opened this year and houses 220 upperclass students, student organizations, the WPRB radio station and some performing arts groups.
The Bloomberg gift and a $35 million gift by Charles '26 and Marie Robertson in 1961 to create a foundation to endow the graduate program of the Wilson School are the largest anonymous gifts received. The Robertson gift remained secret for about 10 years, prompting speculation that the CIA and others had given the money.
The Robertson Foundation is now subject to legal wrangling between the Robertson family and the University.
Between 5 and 10 percent of donations to the University are anonymous, McDonald said. Donors have the option to remain anonymous permanently, but also can reverse anonymity at any time, he added.
"When a significant gift is made, the donor is given the opportunity to name the building, professorship or fund," McDonald said, adding that the University has to accept the name.
To secure anonymous gifts, the Board of Trustees authorizes senior University administrators to accept donations. They use a special coding to protect the names, said Judith Friedman, director of the office of development communications.
McDonald did not specify why the Bloomberg family decided to remain anonymous until now, but he explained common reasons donors choose anonymity.
If the donor is a public figure, McDonald said, the person might choose to donate anonymously to separate public image from private philanthropic involvement.
And Bloomberg is well known for his philanthropy to a number of organizations.
Donors who have children currently enrolled at Princeton might also choose to maintain anonymity until their children have graduated.
Or it can be a matter of security, McDonald said. Wealthy people might choose anonymity to protect themselves or their children.
He also said that sometimes the donor chooses anonymity so that the gift emphasizes who is being honored.
Three current and former trustees chose anonymity when they donated $3 million for Hargadon Hall in Whitman College in honor of former Admission Dean Fred Hargadon.
McDonald also cited the former University Vice President and Secretary Tom Wright, Jr. '62 fund, which was assembled by trustees, administrators, alumni and friends following Wright's retirement last year. Most contributors chose to remain anonymous or to keep the amount of their donation private.
Among other notable donations, Laurance Rockefeller '32 gave more than $20 million to establish the University Center for Human Values — but did not want the center to be named after him. Charter Trustee Dennis Keller '63 gave $10 million in honor of his late classmate, Peter Friend '63.
Michael Bloomberg and his daughter couldn't be reached for comment.
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