Ed Hajim ’58 is a firm believer in the adage that records are made to be broken. Even when it comes to his own historic $30 million gift to the University.
“I’m nicknaming it the Roger Bannister gift,” Hajim said, as he announced the gift on the eve of Meliora Weekend this fall. Referring to the English track star who was the first to break the four-minute mile, Hajim noted that in the early 1950s few believed anyone could run a mile under four minutes.
“When Roger broke it, guess what? Everybody broke it,” Hajim said. “So my gift is a Roger Bannister gift. Nothing would make me happier than to see this gift quickly surpassed by many others.”
A longtime University volunteer and trustee who was elected chair of the board this spring, Hajim joins a history of several noteworthy supporters of Rochester in announcing his commitment. Until this fall, the largest gifts in Rochester’s history were two separate $17 million gifts from George Eastman; a $15 million gift in 1967 from Xerox Corp. founder Joseph Wilson ’31, a former Rochester board chair, and his wife, Marie; a $26 million gift in 1976 from Eastman Kodak executive Charles Hutchison, a Class of 1898 graduate; and a $14 million gift in 2002 from Paychex founder B. Thomas Golisano.
Hajim, who graduated with a degree in chemical engineering, is now the CEO of MLH Capital, an investment firm that he launched in 2002. He has earmarked his gift to fund student scholarships and to support the endowment in the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences.
“This is a historic commitment,” President Joel Seligman said. “Ed has been an exemplary donor and a member of our board since 1988. With this gift of historic generosity, his support and his example make him our most inspiring donor at this moment in our history. This is a truly transformational gift, and we are enormously grateful to him.“
Seligman emphasized the striking timing of the gift, given the economic turmoil in financial and credit markets this fall. “So extraordinary a gift even at this time of great uncertainty in the economy is a powerful sign of Ed’s faith in our University,” he said.
Hajim’s goal is that the gift will strengthen the endowment in engineering and will ultimately provide financial support to five Hajim Scholars in each of the four classes in engineering, for a total of 20 scholarships.
Rob Clark, who became the school’s dean this September, said he and other faculty members have been impressed by Hajim’s commitment to engineering.
“Engineering at Rochester is known for innovation, for quality, and for its agility in addressing new and exciting problems,” Clark said. “This transformative gift will make it possible for our faculty, students, and staff to aspire to even greater accomplishments in education, research, and service to society, now, and for years to come.”
Alex Wesley ’10, the president of the Rochester chapter of the Optical Society of America, says the gift is a sign that Hajim sees great potential in the school and in its students as innovators who will help lead society in the future.
“The gift has a potential value of much greater than $30 million,” Wesley said. “Those who benefit will provide society with invaluable ingenuity and innovation that was made possible by a Rochester engineering degree.”
Paraphrasing University benefactor George Eastman, Hajim said he sees education—and particularly the education provided by a research university—as a key to improving the future for all members of society.
“Higher education is the cornerstone of economic strength in our increasingly interconnected world,” he said. “It will be even more important in the decades ahead, and our nation’s foremost research universities will lead the way.
“A great tradition in this country is that we try our best to improve the world we inherited for the generations that will follow us. Supporting a vibrant center of innovation and discovery like the University of Rochester is simply the best way I can fulfill this obligation.”