Schools of Higher Learning Report Record Gifts from Donors

Harvard University. Photo courtesy of
John Phelan

Setting a record for the ninth year in a row, United States colleges raised a whopping $47 billion during the 12 months beginning in June 2017. It appears that the long-lived stock market expansion played a role in the positive results.


The wealthiest school in the country had the best year. Harvard University raised an astounding $1.4 billion, said a study released in February 2019 by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education.


Schools can thank the 14% growth of the S&P 500, which most likely helped many donors reach a bit deeper into their pockets. Three school surpassed the one-billion-dollar mark in money raised from June 2017 until June 2018. Seven schools were presented with single donations of at least $100 million, the highest number ever receiving such large gifts from one donor.


The second and third largest donations were made to Stanford University for $1.1 billion and Columbia University, which received $1 billion in gifts. Fourth and fifth runners-up were University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) which garnered $787 million and UC San Francisco with a nice $730 million.


The survey was taken by 927 schools. The survey relied on estimates for schools that did not respond to the survey.

Polar Vortex Costs US $1 Billion

The Polar Vortex . Courtesy
NASA Goddard Space Flight Center from Greenbelt, MD, USA

The last week in January 2019 sent the US Midwest into a deep freeze that cost lives and about $1 billion.


At least one dozen people were reported killed by below zero temperatures which in some place reached record lows from Minnesota, Illinois to the northeastern USA. Thousands of planes were grounded or delayed, other forms of transportation, such as trains, were disrupted, and schools sere shuttered in Wisconsin and Minnesota. There were also several power and water outages reported.


Supply chains were disrupted as rail and barge transportation was halted or slowed. Retail shops and restaurants also suffered losses as most people sheltered indoors.


The $1 billion estimated price tag is still considerably less than the damage caused by the polar vortex of 2014, which came to about $5 billion.


Not everyone lost during the freeze. Stores selling winter items did a brisk business along with online sales and drive-through restaurants.


Chicago reported a bone-chilling minus-30 degrees Celsius, and Minneapolis recorded minus-32. Wind-chills factors made some places feel like minus-70 degrees.

Tyson Recalls Chicken Nuggets

Chicken Nuggets by
James Palinsad

Tyson Foods is recalling 18 tons of breaded chicken nuggets in the wake of consumers finding rubber in several packages purchased in stores.  The US Food and Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced the recall at the end of January and told people not to eat the nuggets which have the potential to cause serious health issues.

Consumers complained of having found “extraneous material” such as “rubber” in packages of Tyson panko chicken nuggets, said the FSIS. The specific product is the five-pound bag of Tyson’s White Meat Panko Chicken Nuggets that have a use-by date of November 26, 2019. The case code is 3308SDL03 and the time stamp is 23:00 through 01:59, said the FSIS.

There have not been any reports of illness or other reactions from eating the nuggets.

The case was labeled by the FSIS as “Class I”, which the agency defines as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious adverse health consequences or death.”

The FSIS is also worried that people put the packages in the freezer and could forget about the recall when they do finally pull the nuggets out of the freezer to eat.

Tyson’s tagline is “In life, as in chicken, it’s always better when you just keep it real. No filler. No nonsense. Just stick to the good stuff. The 100% real stuff.”

A Tale of Two Massachusetts Bank Mergers: North Easton Savings Bank and Avidia Bank

Two banks in Massachusetts—North Easton Savings Bank and Mutual Bank—have recently announced that they will be merging in early 2019.

The two banks both maintain 9 locations in different Massachusetts communities. This merger will allow the banks to combine their resources and expand their services. The banks have announced their commitment towards maintaining a culture of growth and success and have dedicated a website, www.meetyourbetterbank.com, to support clients.

Bank mergers can be complicated and often affect thousands of clients as well as employees.

This was the case when another two Massachusetts banks—Westborough Bank and Hudson Savings Bank—merged in 2007. When their merger was announced in November 2006, the deal seemed straightforward. Hudson parent company Assabet Valley Bancorp would pay $35 per share for Westborough Financial Services Inc. (the mutual holding company for The Westborough Bank), for a total of $20.6 million. The deal eventually went through, and the two banks merged to become Avidia Bank.

But, surprisingly, this deal involved intense negotiations, and did not go to the highest bidder. An offer of $38.50 per share from an unidentified individual was rejected by the bank’s shareholders. Another offer, of $40 per share by Marc Bistricer’s Murchinson, was also turned down.

As these Massachusetts banks demonstrate, bank mergers are complex deals that carry implications for bank personnel, investors, and customers.

Diamond Giant Alrosa Names Female Head

Rare twinned diamond crystal. Photo courtesy Robert M. Lavinsky

The world’s leading producer by output of diamonds, Alrosa, appointed Rebecca Foerster to lead its USA division.

The move comes the reopening of its offices in New York last year, together with expanding sales in the US. The company chose an experienced female executive to lead its American operations; Foerster is former Vice President of Strategic planning and marketing at Leo Schachter Diamonds, a position she held for four years.

She has previous experience as Vice President at the US Representative office of Rio Tinto; executive roles at Frederick Goldman Inc, Revlon, Unilever, and Benckiser.

“The United States is the world’s largest market for diamond jewelry consumption. For this reason, special requirements are placed on the person who will represent Alrosa’s interests there. Foerster has a wealth of experience in companies that represent almost all parts of the diamond pipeline, from diamond mining to diamond jewelry sales. She knows the specifics of the diamond business and is well aware of American market needs,” said Deputy CEO of Alrosa, Yury Okoemov.

In 2016 Alrosa closed its New York office for “organizational reasons.” Since the office reopened in 2018 business has been expanding at a pace to the extent that from the two rough diamond auctions held last year in New York the company will have four such events in 2019. Alrosa, which mines diamonds, plans to also offer polished diamonds to the US market this coming year.