The NYU Tandon School Of Engineering

I’ve written about NYU and Poly here on AVC a few times, most recently when I gave a commencement speech earlier this year. Poly is one of the great successes in NYC over the past ten years. In 2005, it was a struggling engineering school in downtown Brooklyn and NYU hadn’t had an engineering school since the mid 1970s.

In 2008 NYU and Poly agreed to affiliate and put themselves on a path to eventually merge the schools. In 2012/2013 NYU and Poly officially merged and Poly became the NYU Poly School Of Engineering.

Over those ten years, Poly has risen from a middling engineering school to one of the top 50 engineering schools in the US. Applications have risen, as have test scores, and graduation rates. The faculty has stepped up and has been joined by a bunch of new dynamic educators and researchers. It has been a joy to watch this transformation which happened because a “jewel of a school” joined a juggernaut called NYU which brought it brand, capital, and leadership. I’ve had a front row seat to this transformation because I’ve been a Trustee of Poly and NYU and joined both boards because of the affiliation and planned merger.

But it gets better. Today, NYU and Poly are announcing that the school will now be called The NYU Tandon School Of Engineering because Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon have bestowed a $100mm gift on the school, to be matched by a $50mm capital campaign. These funds will be directed at faculty and academic programs which are the essence of a university.

For me, this feels like a company I seed funded just did a growth round. And that always feels good because it means that the plan worked.

Besides the phenomenal generosity of Chandrika and Ranjan Tandon, I think I would be remiss not to mention some of the other folks who made this happen; Jerry Hultin, who led Poly during the merger, Sreeni who leads the school now, Dave McLaughlin the Provost of NYU who championed the idea of the merger, and John Sexton and Marty Lipton, whose leadership of NYU over the past twenty years has transformed not just NYU, but also Poly and many other things. Of course there were many others who made this happen, but these people deserve mention for the courage of their leadership. Turnarounds don’t happen without courageous leadership.

The biggest winner in all of this is New York City. I got involved with Poly and NYU because I was acutely aware that the shortage of strong engineering schools in NYC was having a negative impact on the local tech sector. Poly’s engineering school has always been quite large, with almost 2,500 graduate students. But it was not thriving and it needed to. Now NYU Tandon, Columbia, and Cornell Technion are a “golden triangle” of high quality engineering schools in NYC. So much has changed on this front in the past ten years. Now we have the fertile ground for technology to match the entrepreneurial spirit and capital that NYC has always had. This is a big deal.


Comments (Archived):

  1. JimHirshfield

    Wonderful news and a very generous gift!

    1. jason wright

      it is. i wonder what that is as a proportion of their total private wealth?how’s the guinness, warm and wet like the weather?

      1. Jess Bachman

        From what I have gathered, it’s a significant portion. Interestingly, Chandrika’s sister is the Pepsico CEO.

        1. American


      2. JimHirshfield

        Happy hour approaches….although I don’t think they call it that.

    2. LE

      Said just like the bar mitsvah boy to his aunt and uncle – “thank you for the very generous gift. I will put it to good use for my college education! Or to buy something to help me with mindcraft!”. [1][1] My step son just had his bar mitzvah. He wants to spend $200 of the money to buy a mindcraft vault. I asked my wife to find out more about that to see if I could buy it for him on amazon (even though I am opposed to him playing mindcraft). I found out it’s an in game purchase that allows you to have a “higher rank and help other players”. At least that is what I was told. He says “and unlike the xbox things you own it forever!”. And I said “oh so you think you will be playing mindcraft ‘forever’?”… and he answered as if I had asked him if he’d be using the bathroom forever.

      1. JimHirshfield

        “Forever, duh”

        1. LE

          Oh I got a better one for you. He was at this summer program up at Princeton for robotics or shit like that (better than sports camp is all I know). And I say to him “so how were the girls up there? Any good looking ones?”. And he answers me, and I wish I could soundcloud this for you, really incredulous and almost annoyed in a way “what do you meaaaaan?”. As if to say “why would you ask me that?”.When he moves on from mindcraft I will figure out a way that he can sell his account to someone else who wants to jump the line.

          1. JimHirshfield

            Sounds like you really – I mean REALLY – know how to push his buttons.

          2. LE

            Interesting. By saying “pushing buttons” (with at no extra cost: REALLY) you seem to be implying that there is something wrong with asking a boy of that age “so how were the girls up there?”. The fact that he reacted oddly to it (and his mother fwiw agrees with me, ntim since of course I follow my gut..) doesn’t mean that there was something wrong that happened here. I wasn’t teasing. But even if I was, learning how to deal with teasing and uncomfortable things is, as they say, “part of life”. My wife doesn’t coddle the kids either. It’s totally sink or swim with little or no handholding and no “try to be friends with your kid” shit either (which is not the same as saying there is no fun btw..).You know when we first met the younger kid (4 year old girl) started whaling in the car when we were headed out to go to eat. And I stopped in the middle of the street and turned around and yelled at her that if she didn’t shut up we would go back. And she shut up and it hasn’t happened since (I only knew them for maybe a month at the time go find someone else who ever did that type of thing if you can – you won’t.). Now she is 11 and all I have to do is raise my voice and she immediately falls in line. So you see everyone has a different way of dealing with kids the things you read in the books are not the entire story.

          3. LE

            Oh, btw she gives me a hug when I walk in the door every day in case you think I caused permanent damage I didn’t. So does the boy.

  2. jason wright

    in the UK this type of giving does also happen, but typically to Oxford University (and occasionally to Cambridge University) and not to some run down institution in a deprived city or region in real need of a financial boost.Michael Moritz gave over $100 million to Oxford. he studied there, and so it’s understandable, but the disproportionate flow of wealth to that institution to the exclusion of others creates a self perpetuating concentration of resources in only one place. i don’t think that is at all healthy, but i’m not sure how it can change or be changed. government probably sees it as ‘natural’ because the bureaucracy and politics it’s stuffed full of Oxford graduates.

    1. LE

      Excellent comment. Very true. Oxford, Cambridge and Rhodes scholar are probably the only thing I know about higher education in the UK. In Canada it’s McGill. I was told a long time ago that it was “the Harvard of Canada” and have remembered it ever since.In our country blame everything wrong with education on US News college rankings which came out in 1983 [1] Also blame (prior to US News) publicly available SAT scores which created a defacto ranking system. Not to be forgotten, blame the media which will almost always mention when someone goes to a name college and practically never mention when someone went to a unknown or mediocre college unless it fits into some “irony” point they are trying to make (similar to when they mention that someone dropped out of high school or dropped out of college..)[1]

  3. awaldstein

    Big congrats on this Fred!I come from a family of educators and this type of accomplishment deserves broad recognition.

  4. William Mougayar

    Wow. I read the release and it was fascinating to learn about the Tandon’s. What an accomplished and generous couple. And this was incredible: “Applicants for freshman admission have nearly tripled. Applicants, who were predominantly from the New York region previously, now come from 53 countries and 45 states.” Congratulations.

  5. Joe Marchese

    I’m pulling for Cooper Union to revive its program and reputation. Great design has never been more important to the adoption of advanced technology, and technology has never been more important as a delivery vehicle of great design. An integrated program, leveraging the strength of Cooper’s schools, could become a role model for higher education.

    1. fredwilson

      Cooper is great, but small

      1. Tom O'Keefe

        Always enjoy reading your posts. As a resident of the West Village, I’ve become accustomed to viewing NYU’s unilateral expansionism as a relative ill for the neighborhood I love.Reports on President Sexton’s autocratic style (see NYT articles below re: faculty unrest, vote of no confidence, etc) and serious concerns about worker abuse and infringement of academic freedom at NYU campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, for example, seem to call into question the whole spirit of the University’s massive recent growth.Might not its size and unabashed corporatism actually be part of the problem? I understand your reasons for enthusiasm about Tandon, and your personal involvement, but haven’t seen these particular questions raised on the threads here.

      2. sachmo

        So what?

    2. Ana Milicevic

      Was just popping by to mention Cooper too. Some of my best hires over the years were Cooper grads and I love the idea behind the school (the more recent developments re: tuition not so much).

    3. JH

      If you haven’t read this article about the decline of Cooper Union due to horrible mis-management it is a must-read. I hope they can fix it and bring it back to its legacy.

      1. Joe Marchese

        Been following every sad step of the way. As a proud alum, it pains me. Lots of culpability to go around, but I also have to acknowledge that we (alumni) didn’t get it done in terms of sustaining the legacy that was built for us.

        1. JH

          Ouch, sorry Joe. Growing up in the Bronx it was always spoken of with reverent tones. I sincerely hope we get back to that place.

    4. ShanaC

      :/ me too, but…

    5. sachmo

      I attended Cooper Union. It was like going through the marines. Super intense, and in comparison, other medical device robotics companies / startups have seemed like a cakewalk since.

  6. WA

    “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” John Quincy Adams. Congrats Fred – as your ability and Joanne’s, to see this capacity in others and to doing it yourselves has been globally transformational. Enjoy your travels.

  7. Mike Zamansky

    Exciting news. Cornell Technion seems to have gotten most of the hype over the past few years but as a Masters degree institution, it can’t take our local talent from high school through the next step.Even back when NYU Tandon was Brooklyn Poly, lots of kids got a great education so it’s been great to see this evolution.

    1. fredwilson

      yeah. and many kids at Poly/Tandon are day students and live at home. it’s a place that smart kids who can’t really afford an expensive college education go to get a really good one

      1. Anne Libby

        I was thinking about a b-school classmate/friend who graduated from Poly a few years after coming to the US. Glad to hear that there is still a pathway here for new Americans, like my friend once was.

  8. pointsnfigures

    Love the comparison to growth round. Congrats. It will be awesome for NYC. The University of Chicago recently started an engineering program, and it will be good for Chicago. Loyola recently added one too. Illinois recently expanded their engineering to include medicine, and that will be good for us all.

  9. JLM

    .Brooklyn Poly civil engineers were always noted in the Corps of Engineers as excellent engineers.The Corps of Engineers (combat engineers, construction engineers, waterway engineers) was the sought after branch for those who could get in (top grads of West Point, VMI, Texas A&M, Citadel; engineering grads). MacArthur, Rob’t E Lee (and me) were all engineer officers.Engineers do everything the infantry does plus the engineering.I served with a bunch of Brooklyn Poly grads — mostly ROTC scholars who had gotten a free ride in return for 4 years service — and they were all excellent engineers. Guys who came out of college ready to build and destroy stuff. By comparison, the West Pointers were inadequately prepared in regard to basic reinforced concrete design and other core civil subjects. They were all more than adequately prepared in leadership disciplines.I think I had a Poly grad in every unit I served in. They were all universally far above average.America needs more engineers and fewer poets. Nothing against poets but they are hard to place.Well played, Fred.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

    1. LE

      America needs more engineers and fewer poets.Unfortunately people with primarily unstructured analog brains are well suited to “gut subjects” that are harder to get wrong and offer more latitude to not be exactly on target 100% of the time. Like arts, entertainment and liberal arts. You know as well as I do that if someone decides that they are an artist, it would be quite difficult to train them as an engineer or a mathematician. I don’t doubt that there are people who could be driven toward engineering and away from gut subjects or that have both capabilities. But typically that is not the case. You might find a brain surgeon who is also an excellent artist, but are unlikely to find an excellent artist that could also be a brain surgeon. No, maybe that’s not right. Actually let’s just say that probability wise the chance of a brain surgeon being a good artist is equal to a good artist being able to be a brain surgeon given that they want to and would even put in the effort of so many years.

      1. JLM

        .It is never going to be either binary or absolute. There will still be a place for poets but it might just be “Table for one, poets?”In addition, there is something to be said for having a skill that pays the bills while pursing one’s passions.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

        1. LE

          In addition, there is something to be said for having a skill that pays the bills while pursing one’s passions.What’s amazing is how many people don’t understand that concept. Once you earn a living and make money you can easily spend time on things that you enjoy. And sometimes even enjoy what you do (like when I “play” with computers and get paid to do so..). All of this is a simple distortion of the “passion” bill of goods that kids have been sold.

          1. JLM

            .Agreeing slightly more with you than you do with yourself.JLMwww.themusingsofthebigredca…

          2. LE

            As long as I have “the con” here [1] the other bone that I have to pick is all the fucking time kids spend today on often worthless extra curricular activities and community shit (you know because apparently this is the first generation to be “good citizens”) to the detriment of learning more things that can actually help them with what they will have to do to earn an actual living.This is of course an artifact [2] of the college application process (and of course US News!) and psychologists who have decided things like this are important for a child’s development. Or something like that. Back in the day when I got into college none of that was necessary. Just good grades and hard work.[1]…[2] And an artifact of the artifact is Mom’s who now drive SUV’s so they can shuttle their kids to all of their extra curricular activities.

    2. Stephen Voris

      Maybe have the poets translate the engineers’ documentation into English? Then again, writing and editing are different skills. Still – documentation. Or coding. There are, after all, a few similarities between poems and programs.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Maybe have the poets translate the engineers’ documentation into English? Someone needs to:Bluntly, the code doesn’t mean anything. Still, meaning is essentially only in natural language, e.g., English language text.Without documentation, when a program is written, it is understood by only the programmer and God. Six months later, only God.In too many important respects, the documentation is actually more important than the code. If had to keep only one, keep the documentation.In my startup, I am 100% fully aware that the documentation is the key asset. E.g., currently my software has 18,000 programming language statements (the “code”) in text files with 80,000 lines. So, what are the80,000 – 18,000 = 62,000lines? Hmm ….Well, on average a single statement is about two lines line and has a blank line ahead of it. So, that3 *18,000 = 54,000lines. The other 26,000 lines are the documentation. E.g., in addition to various overview explanations, documentation for the purpose of the more important variables and objects, at crucial points there are tree names on my computer of relevant documentation. Then in my text editor, one keystroke displays the documentation.If my startup works and I need to hire, between (A) good college work writing term papers and (B) good college work in coding, I’ll choose (A).For more: If they have also had some solid STEM subjects so that they have seen good writing in STEM subjects, e.g., freshman calculus, physics, or chemistry, still better. If in addition they have some good experience in computer usage, have done some word whacking, have some good usage of the Internet, and have written code in some common programming language, still better.A computer science major without good experience in writing term papers — no thanks!My view is that a severe bottleneck in computer science is the generally horribly poor skills in technical writing and even just term paper writing.

        1. Stephen Voris

          I find the post here is relevant:…Conveniently, the summary’s right there in the URL.Often I think laws could benefit from the same treatment, despite them being ‘compiled’ in human brains rather than transistors.

          1. sigmaalgebra

            Your link (I suspect I’ve seen it before but didn’t keep it because it was too obvious!) has You should first strive to make your code as simple as possible to understand without relying on comments as a crutch. Only at the point where the code cannot be made easier to understand should you begin to add comments. and here, I appreciate the sentiment and to some extent try to do that, but, really, the point is not good but quite bad:Again, the main, central, crucial point is the meaning of the code, and, really, there’s only one way to communicate meaning — natural language (my startup has an approach to honor meaning but, still, due to a tricky point, does not contradict this statement), e.g., English.So, to avoid a lot of documentation and to avoid using a “crutch”, what do coders do? Sure, they use mnemonic identifier names. Bummer: That’s NOT English or any natural language. Sorry ’bout that.They can end up with ego-driven programming where in effect they dare others to understand the code. Bummer.Here’s a rock solid approach to the issue: First, to heck with what the coders and computer scientists say and do — even some of the most famous. Next, look at some of the high quality texts in freshman calculus and physics. There identifier names have just one letter, possibly with some sub/superscripts, etc. Still, one letter. Just one.So, what else to get by? The material is all, 99 44/100% all, written in complete sentences. The math notation is really just a restatement of what is in the text. Say:”For force F, mass m, and acceleration a, we have Newton’s second lawF = ma.”It’s a complete sentence, and each of the symbols is just a restatement of what is in the English. That is, the restatement is an appositive, in apposition, as in An appositive is a restatement of what a thing is, in different terms, that adds to the understanding of that thing’s identity. which is about as close to what the literary community does to explain the physics just above.So, Only at the point where the code cannot be made easier to understand should you begin to add comments. No! The only solid source of the coveted understanding is the natural language comments. Sorry ’bout that.The link also has Programs must be written for people to read, and only incidentally for machines to execute. Now I agree 99 44/100% with the 56/100% the consideration that often the program needs to do well on performance, use of memory, exceptional condition handling, in some languages, memory leaks, etc.In your link, the quote from Knuth and his literate programming is terrific — I couldn’t have said it better myself. Of course, in computing (but not in math!), Knuth is one of my favorites!Since Knuth’s mathematical word whacking system TeX is my high quality word processing, and crucial for my mathematical writing, as I learned TeX I noticed carefully that the TeX source code was presented using Knuth’s literate programming tools Web, Weave, and Tangle. He wanted the result to be something a person could read, with pleasure, sitting in a comfortable chair on some winter evening in a cabin in the mountains or some such. Good.I also noticed that in computing, essentially everything about Knuth’s literate programming was about as popular as a skunk at a Victorian garden party, or, more accurately, the police at a ninth grade beer party.In my work for my startup, my interest is having the source code a solid asset. For that, I’m sure enough that at times I will have to return to the source code after not seeing it for six months. So, then I want a productive asset, not a puzzle problem.For the last little revision I made, I spent 50% of the time reading the code and comments, 40% of the time working out some new and better documentation to save the 50% the next time, 9% typing in the new, better comments, and 1% of the time making the change.The 50% was a bummer — I had not documented well enough the first time. Now those new comments make much of the code in that one program much more clear.My motivation for good comments: If that code breaks, guess who gets to fix it?I sure hope that the input queue in TCP/IP is first in, first out. Else about the time my Web site gets busy, I could have one really nasty bug!I did learn a lesson: At a Web site,Step 1: Write some good high level documentation for the site.Step 2: Sketch out the Web pages. Sure.Step 3: Sketch out the data that keeps, for a user, the state of their session, say all in one class where its instances can be serialized for putting in the session state server and then document that.Step 4: Start writing the documentation for the various main parts and subroutines/functions for the code.Step 5: Write documentation about details of the Web pages and any non-trivial functions/subroutines.Step 6: Write and document the code.Right, this is not lean development. Right: When make a change in the code, also have to change the documentation. So, for this approach, need to know what the heck are doing from the beginning.I’m all for quick and dirty code and have written plenty of it, but when the source code is 18,000 statements in 80,000 lines of text, need to have that work documented.The Knuth quotes in the link you gave emphasize the documentation. Well, to get that, have to write it, have to be able to write, to do good technical writing. So, to hire, I want good skills at writing, hopefully technical writing. That skill is likely harder to teach, learn, or use than coding.

          2. Stephen Voris

            Right, this is not lean development.I suspect that a good chunk of that “lean” development comes from common experience: after a few hundred hours of making websites for various customers, the “80/20” rule starts to apply; enough that they can figure out what’s routine and what isn’t, and so have more time to work on the not-so-routine stuff.Of course, it’s entirely possible to pick up bad habits alongside good ones there.

          3. sigmaalgebra

            My startup is also my first Web site. Of course if I wrote the code again, then I would have some structure that would make the code easier to document.Of course, I have some such structure now: For each of the Web pages except the first, I started with the code of the most relevant old page so brought over a good start and reused a lot that could be called standard.There is more that is standard, i.e., reused, e.g., exceptional condition handling and writing to the Web site log file.And there’s more: I had to decide on Linux or Windows, and selected Windows. Well, on Windows with their ASP.NET (active server pages), they have some structure in what they want to call events, and, then, for each such event the code needs a subroutine to handle it. The standard ASP.NET events areSub Page_InitSub Page_LoadSub Page_PreRenderSub Page_Unloadwith another event handler for each button on the Web page. For a simple Web page, that is some good, initial structure.Then for documentation, that structure is already documented by Microsoft.Maybe my Web site is more complicated than some! In addition to the standard Microsoft Web server, their IIS (Internet Information System), I have four more, a session state server I wrote, Microsoft’s SQL Server, and two more with some applied math. Still, if I wrote the code again, even with these back end servers, I would have some structure that would be easier to document.For my code, there is another source of structure: I type my code in using just my favorite, programmable text editor.Well, I have maybe two dozen macros for my text editor that let me find, select, etc. parts of the code and/or documentation, and for those macros some of the formatting of the code and comments are standard. That is, not just the code but also the documentation is to be manipulated with my editor, e.g., as in a special case of word whacking.E.g., I have some editor macros:Macro IDC — insert dated comment Modified at 13:21:59 on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015. E.g., insert such a comment just before a change in the code. Or when writing overview documentation, insert such a comment as a tag and, then, in the documentation use a copy of that tag as a pointer to code want to discuss.Macro BEIDC — insert dated comment on two lines with BEGIN and END to form a comment block. BEGIN Modified at 13:26:59 on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015.END Modified at 13:26:59 on Tuesday, October 6th, 2015. And I have several more such and, then, some macros to make use of such structured comments.Or as in your link, Knuth’s literate programming produces a nice document with both code and comments nicely formatted, and essentially I want something of the same, i.e., something I can read productively. My need is the same as Knuth addresses although I don’t go nearly as far as he did.No, I don’t use Visual Studio: Actually, for debugging Web pages, Microsoft’s ASP.NET and IIS have some darned nice features that make Visual Studio much less important. For debugging code for other than Web pages, I’ve never had any difficulty doing that so don’t need any help.So, net, a lot of the work is writing for a human reader and, thus, needs skills in writing, at least technical writing.Knuth has already long since made all these points very clearly. That now the world of practical computing still resists these points, or is just very slow to find Knuth, appreciate the points, or rediscover them, is not really my problem!

    3. LE

      For your further amusement, Obama to his daughter about college:…Hillarious!“One piece of advice that I’ve given her is not to stress too much about having to get into one particular college,” Mr. Obama told a group that included high school students in Des Moines last month. “Just because it’s not some name-brand, famous, fancy school doesn’t mean that you’re not going to get a great education there.”Like the name brand, fancy school that helped him get elected as President. Of course she doesn’t need that I agree.Do people actually not barf reading this type of thing? You are the daughter of a President and you have some reason to get stressed at all about college other than being an embarrassment to your father if the press ever got wind of your low grades for some reason. This is so absurd. I don’t even understand things like this.And this, you know what they say “things said in jest”:His second piece of advice, the president said as the room broke into laughter, “is keep your grades up until you get in, and after that, make sure you pass.”Great advice, huh? I would never tell someone young that. Even in jest. The idea (read his first paragraph) is to learn. Not to get grades unless for some reason those grades are for some particular purpose as well as learning. Great attitude. Like saying “ok to do drugs, just don’t get caught” (should Potus jest about that type of thing?). Or “unprotected sex, just make sure your timing is right, ok?”.And this is from a man who decides to take off his first month in office to attend a super important school meeting (right) at a private school (Sidwell) that apparently his wife couldn’t handle by herself. You know to show how a real father does it. Or what a real father should do.The idea that the daughter of a President or former President can have a normal life as a college student is laughable. Yeah you are just like everyone else and everyone will treat you just as they would treat anyone in that college. (Or in the job that you get after college).

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Good grades? They can do a student a lot of good — get treated better by both students and teachers, get into advanced classes, get into special summer programs, get into a better college, reduce college expenses via scholarships, circulate with brighter people, get better recommendations all along the way.Learning? Some of the learning can be important.Bottom line: In the end, the learning can be more important than the grades. E.g., tucked away in D. Knuth’s book on his mathematical word whacking system TeX is: The traditional way is to put off all creative aspects until the last part of graduate school. For seventeen or more years, a student is taught examsmanship, then suddenly after passing enough exams in graduate school he’s told to do something original. Then, suddenly need actually to have learned enough of the prerequisites and, in addition, have enough idea about how the material is invented and constructed, “to do something original.”My dad was really good at education but for me seemed to have two approaches: (1) ignore my grades and just tell me just to learn the material and (2) do very little to help me and, instead, let me fall and pick myself up on my own.Twice he did bail me out!Once in the fourth grade, the teacher sent a note home that she would fail me if I didn’t complete the long, onerous, boring workbook of arithmetic exercises. Bummer. So in a few minutes, Dad confirmed that I knew the arithmetic perfectly well — I did; it was easy.So, for an evening we sat together with a calculator, he punched the buttons, and I wrote in the answers. Teacher pleased!In the fifth grade, the teacher was single, un-pretty, i.e., semi-beautiful, had just been jilted by her fiancé, and was one, shall we say, frustrated female. Well, I was already about 6′ tall, came out the same as JLM’s father, just under 6′ 4”, so somehow irritated this teacher’s sore spot about males. Gee, I’d never thought of making a pass at her — some of the girls in the fifth grade were pretty, but the teacher, gads!So, after parent-teacher evening, Dad warned me that I might have a tough time with her for the rest of the year! Actually, after Dad’s little, apparently, domineering, intimidating tutorial to her on teaching (Dad had his Master’s in education when it was taken seriously and was essentially the academic dean of a technical school with 40,000 students) she was better!Finally Dad’s just “learn the material” saved my tail feathers:Case I: I wanted to know linear algebra. I really, really wanted to know linear algebra. A lot. I’d touched on it in a course in abstract algebra but wanted more. I’d touched on it again reading, on my own, a Princeton, Steenrod, et al., text in multi-variable calculus, exterior algebra, and integration on manifolds. Touched again in a physics reading course on Lagrangians, etc. Touched again in courses in differential equations and advanced calculus. Touched again in my undergraduate honors paper on group representations.Still, I wanted more. So, while working, I got a good text and went through it carefully, working exercises, etc. Then I got von Neumann’s Quantum Mechanics and went through the Hilbert space parts — more linear algebra. Then went carefully through Halmos, Finite Dimensional Vector Spaces, really the crown jewel of the subject, written while Halmos was an assistant to von Neumann — the book is basically a finite dimensional introduction to Hilbert space. In my career, did more with numerical linear algebra, curve fitting, multi-variate statistics, etc. Did more with the fast Fourier transform — which can be looked at as linear algebra. Studied some differential equations carefully, right, Coddington, which used some linear algebra, and did more on deterministic optimal control of systems (linear algebra) differential equations.Then in grad school they had a course in linear algebra. I said I thought that I didn’t need it. They gave me a patronizing, insulting smile, said that it was a second course, an advanced course. Of course, it would be my first actual course just in linear algebra. The prof was a world expert in the field, somehow had been a student of C. Loewner at Stanford.Well, the course was beneath what I’d already done! On the grades, and everything was carefully graded, I blew away all the rest of the class and sometimes even intimidated the prof!Ah, learning! Sometimes learning can help!But, there was one other course, in statistics, I didn’t like — it was 90% beneath what I’d already done. The course got to the topic sufficient statistics which I hadn’t known but, then, very much wanted to. Well, really, that topic was beyond the course. The topic is really based on the Radon-Nikodym theorem in measure theory and Kolmogorov’s approach to probability, and I knew that material well.So, I got the famous paper, by Halmos, on that topic, and dug in. There was one point in the paper that didn’t look right; since I was in a hurry, I asked the prof, but he didn’t understand that paper at all. Bummer. So, for me that course was a total waste of time, and I just walked out.How to get by with that? Actually, in a Ph.D. program, what’s just crucial is the research. Sometimes a flat statement given is that all the courses are just introductions to research and students are expected to get the basic material on their own. In particular, in the school where I got my Ph.D., the official statement was that there is no coursework requirement for a Ph.D. Good.Actually, for a Ph.D., the usual obstacle is the research. Knuth’s remark addresses a serious issue — too many students with straight As since pre-school that have a super tough time with their dissertation research.Still, nearly all the profs were super-diligent, straight A students all the way back to pre-school so, somehow, thought that grades were important. I hadn’t been and didn’t!Actually, in my high school, they thought that I was not much of a student until they saw my SAT scores and said, “Uh, there must be some mistake”. There had been, sweetheart, for 12 long, painful, wasteful years! I had been just trying to learn.Case II: But I needed one more course for my Master’s. There was a problem in a course but not solved there. So, I asked for a reading course to solve it. I got a nice solution in two weeks — course done! My solution was publishable, and I published it. Thus I’d actually met the official requirement for a dissertation, in two weeks!I used some other work I’d already done, independently, for my dissertation, but the reading course results did polish my halo. That helped!A grad student who picked their own problem, one that had been unsolved for a long time, and knocked off a good solution essentially on their own, in two weeks, is tough to turn down for a Ph.D.!One way or another, grades or original research, it can be a big help to a student to have a polished halo.But, for that reading course work and the work I used for my dissertation, it was necessary that I had actually learned.Lesson: Much as in Knuth’s statement, all through school, grades are regarded as really important, and learning otherwise is just ignored. Then, suddenly, for a Ph.D., actually no one much cares what you know, i.e., doesn’t expect you to carry around the library between your ears, and, instead, cares only about what is “new, correct, and significant” you can create.For some students, this can be a biggie lesson.So, in the end, the learning is more important than the grades.

  10. Mike Zamansky

    It will also be interesting to see how NYU Tandon / NYU Courant plays out. Many universities offer CS through their Arts and Sciences school and through engineering but the faculty and resources seem to be largely shared.Here we have 2 strong departments that developed independently.

    1. fredwilson

      i think that’s a plus. from a distance i see the Courant CS school as more theoretical and the Tandon CS school as more engineering focused

      1. Mike Zamansky

        One of my issues with many top CS programs is that while everyone knows that the vast majority of graduates will go into the workforce, they seem to be designed with the assumption that all the kids will be going on to grad school, at least with respect to theoretical material.I always liked the fact that Courant seemed more flexible with regards to this than many other programs.This should be a terrific opportunity for both departments.

  11. iggyfanlo

    Congratulations. I can feel your sense of pride and accomplishment in seeing this through. Your love of NYC and desire to help it continue to thrive in the tech/eng world is admirable and inspiring.

  12. David Greydanus

    I just wish they would put some money towards making the school slightly affordable.

    1. jason wright

      can you quantify how much of a financial barrier there is to enrolment?

      1. Earl Co

        It’s not just a barrier to enrollment, it’s a barrier to graduation, and a barrier to a fulfilling life that isn’t spent in two decades or a lifetime of debt.

      2. David Greydanus

        I was referring to NYU at large, not specifically this new school. Princeton Review ranks NYU as having the worst financial aid in North America.

  13. LE

    This is good news. Congratulations.What you wrote didn’t clearly state (at least to me not being from NYC) what the relationship was between the two institutions originally. So I dug up this link from 2008, when NYU first apparently affiliated with Poly. Apparently back then there was controversy around this.https://www.insidehighered….When reading the story it is clear (on a scan, didn’t study it) that there were a considerable amount of hurt feelings and disagreement when this went down and charges of backroom deals. Just shows you how sometimes you have to be the crazy driver and SOB to get something done. A world run by the Pope and Mother Theresa wouldn’t get very far. This is a good example of it (read the story).Also from the story:In a 1973 financial crisis, NYU gave up engineering programs, and sold off one of its campuses, in a state-brokered deal that resulted in most of the engineering faculty ending up at Polytechnic.

  14. sigmaalgebra

    More funding, etc. for NYU, Columbia, Cornell, etc., first-cut, sounds good.Good in the long term? While I believe so, at present I don’t see how.Why? The old, crucial paths from research to applications in the economy that could support family formation work poorly, and I don’t see much in new paths coming forward. So, for the students, an investment in such an education is now a long shot, likely imprudent.A few students will do well, because of or inspite of the education, but it appears we’re talking a lot of students who will never use that education in any sense and will find the time, money, and effort invested to have been a seriously harmful waste.The STEM fields? Sure, crown jewels of civilization.For the students and the US, there were some decades where such education really mattered: So, there was steel, coal, steam, rails, long bridges, tall buldings, large ships, big guns, oil, microbiology, autos, electricity, airplanes, plastics, electronics, radio, chemical engineering, nuclear reactions, transistors, computing, microelectronics, the Internet.So, big drivers were (1) the industrial revolution, (2) US national security, (3) computing, (4) medicine, and (5) the Internet.Now? From all I can see, for nearly all of the STEM fields and nearly everyone in them, for the research, the professors, and the graduating students, the investment of time, money, and effort look like wasteful mistakes.Why? We have way too much in research and students and not nearly enough in exploitations in the economy.Why? The old drivers are weak or gone, and we don’t have new drivers.In simple terms, the easy ground has been plowed, and the new ground is too difficult for the existing system.It appears that the guys at the top, the real decision makers, are (1) comfortable enough in their own lives but (2) are not good enough with the STEM fields to be able to evaluate new STEM projects accuratly enough to yield good average ROI with reasonably low risk and, now, no longer want to try. For correcting (2), maybe more and better education in the STEM fields will help, but I’m not seeing much progress or interest in or effort for such progress.In simple terms, at present, the role in the economy of new work in the STEM fields is dying.I don’t believe that for the long term the STEM fields have run their course and had their day, but, at present, looking just empirically, that does seem to be the situation.In simple terms, a student who wants ROI in the economy from their STEM studies needs to cook up a project that they can bring from first conception all the way to good revenue on a very short shoe string, maybe just pocket change. So, big projects of the past in industry and US national security are no longer pursued strongly enough to keep the STEM fields healthy.Here with the STEM fields we have a huge retrenchment and, really, a special case of much more: The US is no longer fertile ground for human progress or even humans, i.e., in blunt terms, the number of children born per woman is so low the US population is going extinct. Literally.Maybe with enough additional, good education in the STEM fields we will get a collection of new leaders ready, willing, able, and eager to bring forward STEM development, education, and exploitation with high average ROI and low risk. Maybe, but just empirically I see nearly no sprouts of hope.For now, for career advice for a teenager, look for something where you can own your own business that is (1) relatively immune from technology and (2) has a strong geographical barrier to entry.

    1. LE

      Excellent and very very Trumpian. Kind of related to “to many chiefs, not enough Indians or battles to fight”. I will add also that any push or oversupply inevitably leads to a fall exactly because of what you are saying. Right now seems like the sky is the limit.In simple terms, a student who wants ROI in the economy from their STEM studies needs to cook up a project that they can bring from first conception all the way to good revenue on a very short shoe string, maybe just pocket change.Not quite as excellent. See this as YASPA (yet another stupid photo app; in the vein of YACC yet another c compiler). How in the world can someone fresh out of college do much with whatever their exposure is to the world? Maybe if you put 1000 of them out there you will by chance get something. But I don’t think this type of gamble is a good use of time or resources. And someone who could do something (older guy at large company) probably has quite the nice set of golden handcuffs.

      1. sigmaalgebra

        Finally it has dawned on me why the US economy is so sick:Automation is deflationary. So are many of the imports we are getting.Well, in our credit economy, it’s tough for prices to go down. Here are two examples of why:E.g., a guy signs up for a 20 year mortgage on a house at $250,000 but after five years needs to move, sell the house, and buy another elsewhere. But with deflation, the house may bring only $200,000, and the guy can’t pay off his mortgage. If he can, he should buy the new house, keep the old one, and rent it.E.g., same for rental property: The landlord has to pay off the mortgage so can have a tough time lowering the rent at least until the mortgage is paid off.So, a lot of prices are not going down. So, what happens instead is that the economy slows; business activity slows; innovation slows; people lose jobs; tax revenues fall; safety net expenses rise.Even seven years of 0.25% annual interest rates have not stopped the deflation.Looks like time to print some money to counter the deflation. At least have a lot in public works, education, health care.Just keep printing money until get rid of the deflation.And, then, notice that a business like Amazon is causing more deflation.Notice that Google, with it’s approach to advertising, is lowering ad rates and creating more deflation.Much of the work in startups is aimed at doing something cheaper and, thus, is deflationary.It may be that the Fed needs to increase their balance sheet by some trillions of dollars to overcome the deflation.

  15. Julee

    Why change the name?

    1. LE

      Well besides the generous gift, and the obvious reason why someone who gives $100 million should expect to get that type of recognition, adding a name next to a school really does add a touch of class to the school vs. the default name. As long as it’s a short 1 or 2 syllable name of course. As it is here. It’s classy, since we’ve seen it in other situations so the class is inferred. Interesting marketing concept.

    2. jason wright

      an appeal to the egos of the less enlightened of the uber wealthy class?’you are mortal but your name will live on’?

  16. Hedgefund

    The evidence is mounting that hedge funds do nothing more than skim returns off the top of main investors. Sure some win and some loose, but they are playing with OPM. Tech VC have stayed out of the bed of hedgefunds, I hope they continue to do the same. It’s time to tax high frequency traders and stop glamorizing their gifts.

    1. LE

      Making gifts like this (and for that matter many parts of philanthropy) is one of the ways that people are able to shield themselves from things like that happening to them.. Like the mafia giving out chickens on Christmas. Important to spread the cheer. Make connections to important people that can help you and protect you. The way the world works. Not likely to change.That said, I don’t agree with you that anything wrong is happening in what these people have done to earn their money. At least from what I know about what they do. Nice that they did this.

      1. Hedgefund

        What is wrong is that the S&P 500 is now the defacto retirement account for tens of millions of people. Skimming off 100 BP while currently legal is morally appalling.

        1. LE

          That’s fine but then why stop there? There are thousands of ways that people make money at the expense of the rest of us. In exchange for the freedom that we have there is both an upside to activities like this and a downside. If everyone was as holy and apparently selfless as the pope we wouldn’t be having this discussion in this forum right now. We’d still be living in villages with dirt floors.

          1. Hedgefund

            Floodgates argument is missing the point. Because of the notional value, this is one of the most important issues facing the U.S.. It’s early so few lay people are paying attention, but like all corruption, this practice will eventually end.

          2. Hedgefund

            The only issue that Bernie sanders and Donald trump agree on!

      2. American

        A 100 million “gift” doesn’t mean he’s not a criminal hedge fund hyena.This country doesn’t need “gifts” from the criminal rich we need to rein them in before they loot us into serfdom.

  17. Poly Alumni

    Unfortunately, the lack of transparency by the current leadership makes it hard for those without the front row view you have been privy too because of your investment to see it that way.This is how those without the view you have see it…Any ideas for facilitating a meet in the middle?

  18. greyenlightenment

    judging by the whining in the comments, no good deed goes unpunished

  19. jason wright

    some sort of NFL type draft system for college financing?the colleges with the best results go to the bottom of the funding list and visa versa. over time opportunity becomes more balanced.

  20. sachmo

    Dude… how do you not mention Cooper Union in the ‘triangle’ of Columbia, Cornell and Poly/ NYU? Cooper Union is ranked better, not just in US news, but in alternative reportings as a value school. It is merit only, so working class kids get in. Having gone there, I can tell you that it has a serious startup / self learning mentality – that you won’t find at places like Columbia or Cornell.Honestly, when discussions of higher ed come up on this blog, its really strange that Cooper Union never raises any interest, especially given how close it is to Union Square.

  21. P. Hsu

    Why change the school name and erase 161 years of history?I rather the Tandon’s rename the school to “NYU – Tandon Polytechnic School of Engineering”.It allows NYU to thank the Tandons for their generous donation of $100 million, it satisfies the Tandons to preserve their legacy to become synonymous with “Stern” or “Tisch” name in the NYU community. It satisfies the current Polytechnic student body, alumni and former faculty in preserving the rich legacy of the Polytechnic name and 161 years of history. The Tandons challenged NYU to raise a $50 million scholarship fund. How will NYU accomplish this when they have outraged their alumni with the name change? This new suggest name change NYU – Tandon Polytechnic School of Engineering will bring the Present in line with the Past moving together towards the bright Future!The school may have been in decline since I went there but in the 80’s Brooklyn Polytechnic was ranked higher in IEEE rankings (16th on the list) of undergraduate electrical engineering programs (1st in NYC ahead of Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science) and 2nd in New York State behind only Cornell Universtiy.

    1. P. Hsu

      The alumni can’t be doing too bad as we ranked 38th on Payscale’s Survey of best university and college salary potential: