Widow Donates $1 Billion to Cover Tuition for NYC’s Poorest Area Forever

Dr. Ruth Gottesman is a former professor at Einstein University in the Bronx. Having recently lost her husband, she made a generous contribution to cover tuition for students attending the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Covering Tuition

Dr. Ruth has a history of achievements at Einstein, dedicating years of her life to the institution. She took a job in 1968 as “Director of Psychoeducational Services,” eventually becoming the chair of the board of trustees. She studied learning disabilities and even developed a screen test. However, none of her deeds are seemingly more incredible than her decision to donate $1 billion to help cover tuition fees for future students. It is one of the largest donations ever made to a U.S. school, and likely the largest ever made to a medical university.

Dr. Ruth Gottesman
Dr. Ruth Gottesman. Image Credit: einsteinmed

She lost her husband David Gottesman, affectionately known as Sandy in 2022. The 96-year-old had done some incredible things in his lifetime, including bestowing his wife with a gift that she generously passed along to help students cover their tuition. “He left me, unbeknownst to me, a whole portfolio of Berkshire Hathaway stock,” she recalled to the New York Times“Do whatever you think is right with it.”

Poorer Schools Need more Assistance

Although the grieving wife took some time to mourn, her children encouraged her not to wait too long. Incredibly, her generous decision will not only change the lives of students but change the lives of students in serious need of an extra boost. The Einstein School of Medicine is located in the Bronx, the city’s poorest area, raking the “unhealthiest” county in New York.

Sadly, most donations are made to wealthier schools like those in Manhattan. As a result, many students attending Einstein University have less resources available to them than those in Manhattan, as well as the financial ability to invest into their futures. About 60 percent of students at Einstein are women. Around 48% are white, while 29% are Asian. Hispanics and Blacks make up only a small percentage of less than 20, combined.

‘Sandy’ ran an investment firm, making an early investment in Berkshire Hathaway. This decision set himself and his family up with an abundance of wealth. Now, his widow has chosen to do something incredible with some of the assets he left behind. “I wanted to fund students at Einstein so that they would receive free tuition,” she said. “There was enough money to do that in perpetuity.”

Tuition Costs are at an All-Time High

Tuition is skyrocketing, as is the cost of everything else. Many medical students leave school with debts of around $200,000. However, at other New York schools, the debts were much lower, with fewer than 25% of students owning that much. Although doctors make great money, the cost of their schooling alone is enough to prevent someone with fewer resources, from being able to attend. Ruth’s incredible donation will cover tuition for countless students, allowing for those from struggling families, to reach for their dreams.

We have terrific medical students, but this will open it up for many other students whose economic status is such that they wouldn’t even think about going to medical school,” she said. “That’s what makes me very happy about this gift.” Dr. Ruth has become friends with Dr. Philip Ozuah, a pediatrician who oversees the college, as well as the Montefiore Medical Center. As their friendship blossomed, so too, did the opportunity to collaborate on something incredible.

“I have the opportunity not just to help Phil, but to help Montefiore and Einstein in a transformative way — and I’m just so proud and so humbled — both — that I could do it.”

A Friendship that became a Lifeline

The pair sat next to each other on a flight from West Palm Beach in Florida and became well-acquainted. They spent the flight sharing about their childhoods. Where they grew up. And discussed their similar interests, career goals, and passion for helping others. A few weeks after the fateful flight, the 2020 Pandemic took over the world, and left everyone in a state of disarray. During this time, David ‘Sandy’ Gottesman became incredibly ill from one of the variants. Meanwhile, kind-hearted Dr. Ozuah checked in on the pair regularly. He sent an ambulance to their home, bringing them to Montefiore.

“That’s how the friendship evolved,” Dr. Ozuah shared. “I spent probably every day for about three weeks, visiting them in Rye.”

Sometime after her recovery, Dr. Gottesman was asked by Dr. Ozuah to return to her former position. The position as the head of medical board’s trustees. When her husband passed, and she’d had some time to gather her thoughts, Dr. Ruth Gottesman approached her dear friend Dr. Ozuah. “If someone said, ‘I’ll give you a transformative gift for the medical school,’ what would you do?” she asked. The first thing he answered with was to make tuition free. They never got any further because that was exactly was Ruth was hoping to do.

Humility Over Fame

She was hesitant to attach her name to the donation believing that “Nobody needs to know.” However, Dr. Ozuah insisted that someone else might be inspired by her story. “Here’s somebody who is totally dedicated to the welfare of others and wants no accolades, no recognition,” he said of his friend. In return for her generous tuition contribution, Dr. Ruth has requested that school keep its name, “We’ve got the gosh darn name — we’ve got Albert Einstein.” She said.

“I hope he’s smiling and not frowning,” she said of her husband’s generous gift. “But he gave me the opportunity to do this, and I think he would be happy — I hope so.

Incredibly, Einstein isn’t the first medical school to do away with tuition. New York University began offering free tuition for medical students in 2018 and has since seen an increase in applications. It’s likely that Dr. Ruth and Dr. Ozuah’s friendship, as well as the financial standing of the widow, will help countless students realize their dreams, vastly improving the future of medicine.

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