When a professor of physics had to face the generally unpleasant process of looking through his nearly year-long office mail one day in September, he was surprised to discover the content that had been sitting there for nine months.
The package, which was addressed to the “Head of the Physics Department,” only included stacked bills in denominations of $50 and $100, wrapped in paper bands, along with an anonymous message and a return address to an alias.
“I’ve never seen this kind of money in real life in cash form. I’ve never seen it except in movies, and so, yeah, I was shell shocked and I just did not know how to react,” the professor said. The sender evidently had unshakable faith in the U.S. postal system, and desired to send the cash as a donation to cash-strapped students looking to pursue physics and other sciences.
The letter began, “Assuming that you are somewhat curious as to why I am doing this, the reason is straightforward.” It went on to say that the kind author had taken advantage of the college’s “excellent educational opportunity” to study physics, get a master’s degree, and have a “long, productive, and very rewarding scientific career” many years before.
The money was first handled as evidence. However, after a two-month long investigation turned up no evidence that may have connected it to criminal conduct, the Board of Trustees decided to hold a vote to determine whether or not they would keep the money. It should not come as a surprise that they did keep the money. One of the chairs suggested that the old box should be “bronzed” and “put in a display case.”
The professor mentioned that the gift would provide for two fully-funded scholarships every year for a decade, and that he would try to see it go into the hands of the students who had the fewest means—such as immigrants.