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Weill uses $170 million Cornell gift to tell other philanthropists to put up

Sandy Weill, the ex-chairman of Citicorp, may be taking a beating for his role in creating the banking system that led to our economic meltdown.

But in his post-banking days, the son of two Polish-Jewish immigrants is becoming quite a philanthropist.

Most recently, he gave $170 million to the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University. Certainly it is a huge number, but what makes it more interesting is that Weill had pledged to give $250 million to the school upon his death, according to the New York Times.

But last year, the president of the University, which has seen its endowment of $5.39 billion last June lose more than a third of its value and which has an 8 percent deficit on its $2.9 billion budget, according to the Times, asked Weill if he would consider giving a chunk of the money now so that Cornell could move ahead with plans to finish construction on a new building by 2013.

The ex-banker forked over the $170 million – this, despite that he had seen his personal wealth plummet.

Weill told the Times that he was trying to make point:

In doing so, Mr. Weill said, he hopes to send a message about charity in a time of need, but he may also be trying to burnish an uncertain legacy after the collapse of the company he built into the nation’s most valuable financial institution was averted only by a huge federal bailout.

“The statement we’re trying to make is that this is a really important time to give money, whatever it’s for,” Mr. Weill said from the lavish spread of offices overlooking Central Park where he has worked on philanthropic ventures since stepping down as Citigroup’s chairman in April 2006.

Mr. Weill would not say how much of his personal fortune had disappeared with the decline of Citigroup’s stock, describing it as “a lot” and adding, “We’re not crying poor.” In March, Forbes magazine estimated he had lost $600 million of a $1.4 billion fortune.

“Nobody is worth what they were, except liars,” he said. “So we have all felt pain, but we all can do more and doing something in a time like this is much more important.”

The Wall Street Journal says that perhaps Weill is the Jimmy Carter of philanthropy – a crappy president who did more out of office than in office.

This is where Weill fits into the money web, according to Muckety. 

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