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Stanford University Accepted $50,000 Gift From Jeffrey Epstein

Sarah McBride

(Bloomberg) -- Stanford University received a $50,000 donation from a foundation funded by deceased sex offender Jeffrey Epstein, a spokesman said Friday.

The donation came in 2004, two years before allegations involving Epstein’s sexual conduct with young girls started making news. The gift went to the university’s physics department.

 “The funds were expended shortly thereafter and we have no record of any other gifts to the university from him or his foundations,” a Stanford University spokesman said in an email.

News of the donation emerges as educational institutions are coming to grips with their relationship with the disgraced financier, who committed suicide last month in a Manhattan jail while awaiting trial on sex trafficking and conspiracy charges. Epstein, who was 66, cultivated relationships with scientists and technologists, holding conferences and attending events with leading thinkers such as the late cosmologist Stephen Hawking and LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman. 

Last month, Stanford was among institutions that told BuzzFeed that they had searched financial records and couldn’t find evidence of an Epstein donation. A Stanford spokesman said BuzzFeed had requested information about gifts after 2006, when Epstein was charged for the first time. The school said it also told the reporter of the 2004 donation.

On Thursday, Harvard University President Lawrence Bacow said the university was reviewing millions of dollars in Epstein donations, all of which came before his 2008 guilty plea in Florida. Also on Thursday, Massachusetts Institute of Technology President Rafael Reif said he signed a 2012 thank-you letter to Epstein for a donation, but has no memory of it. MIT launched its own review into Epstein donations last month.

Joi Ito, the director of the MIT Media Lab, resigned from his post on Sept. 7 after the New Yorker reported that the Media Lab’s ties to Epstein ran deeper than Ito had disclosed. In August, Reif said MIT had received $800,000 from Epstein-linked foundations. In early September Ito said he had also received $1.2 million from Epstein for outside investment funds he controlled. 

In an email to Axios on Thursday, Hoffman said he last interacted with Epstein in 2015, and that all his few interactions came at the request of Ito, with the goal of fundraising for the Media Lab. Hoffman said Ito had told him that MIT had vetted Epstein.

“By agreeing to participate in any fundraising activity where Epstein was present, I helped to repair his reputation and perpetuate injustice,” Hoffman told Axios. “For this, I am deeply regretful.”

Since Epstein’s arrest in July, many technology figures have rushed to distance themselves from the financier.

Stanford, in the heart of Silicon Valley, has become the breeding ground for tech titans from Hewlett-Packard to Google. This year, it was caught up in a bribery scandal alleging rich parents could pay a middleman for admission to a handful of elite schools. Federal prosecutors alleged that a now-fired sailing coach accepted donations for the sailing program in exchange for smoothing the application process for some students.

Epstein’s COUQ Foundation Inc. made the donation to Stanford. The same charity gave to a wide variety of causes, including the Clinton Foundation, the Martha Graham Dance Company and the Save Darfur Coalition, according to filings.

To contact the author of this story: Sarah McBride in San Francisco at smcbride24@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anne VanderMey at avandermey@bloomberg.net, Alistair Barr

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