New Nobel Laureate Donates Prize Money to Local Charity

Contact Angellica Dongallo at adongallo@dailycal.org.





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Rather than indulging his aspiration to pay off the mortgage on his home, UC Berkeley professor George Smoot decided to donate his half of the $1.3 million prize he received for winning the Nobel Prize for physics in October to a local community foundation.

Shortly after receiving the award with John Mather of the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center, Smoot said he decided to donate his cash prize to the East Bay Community Foundation, an organization that directs donated funds to nonprofit organizations for charitable causes.

“(Students are) idealistic and they want to do the right thing in the world,” Smoot said, adding that he hopes he can help empower young people with the means to achieve their academic and career goals.

Smoot said he hopes a campus organization, the UC Berkeley Foundation, will match the funds he donated to the East Bay foundation so that a science training center for high school students and cosmology research might be established.

Smoot said he decided to donate the money to a charitable organization because opportunities he had in life enabled him to pursue his own career.

“Here’s my chance to do the same for the next generation,” he said.

Although Smoot has not indicated a specific purpose for the funds, they will be focused at fellowships aiming to meet the needs of graduate and postdoctoral students studying math and science, said Chris Nicholson, vice president of development for the East Bay foundation.

The foundation connects donors—individuals, families and organizations—with charitable causes in the Alameda and Contra Costa counties.

It manages and directs more than 400 funds and endowments, totaling almost $270 million.

Officials at the foundation said they were delighted with Smoot’s decision.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Nicholson said. “There’s something special about the Nobel Prize … We’re honored to work with (Professor Smoot).”

Smoot is among six members of the UC Berkeley and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory communities who have established funds at the foundation, according to a statement from the foundation.

Smoot said he directed the funds to the community foundation because of its accessibility to the local community and the UC Berkeley campus.

“They impress me as a very good organization who is actively trying to improve the overall quality of the East Bay,” Smoot said.

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