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Binghamton University to use $5 million donation to pursue AI research and development

By Eric Reinhardt (ereinhardt@cnybj.com)

Date:

Thomas Secunda — co-founder of Bloomberg L.P. and a 1976 graduate of Binghamton University — on March 1 spoke at a press conference at the school’s Innovation Technologies Complex. (Photo credit: Jonathan Cohen via Binghamton University website)

VESTAL, N.Y. — Binghamton University announced it will use a $5 million donation to attract, recruit and retain tech talent, creating a pipeline for students to participate in the artificial intelligence (AI) economy of the future.

The school calls the gift from Bloomberg L.P. co-founder Tom Secunda a “landmark” donation. Secunda is a 1976 graduate of Binghamton University and earned his master’s degree from the university in 1979.

“As a Binghamton University alumnus, I’m proud to champion novel tech advancement and AI infrastructure at my alma mater,” Secunda said in the school’s announcement. “Embracing AI will not only unlock new opportunities for New York, but it will also catalyze the emergence of innovative jobs in uncharted industries with the potential to make our state the Silicon Valley of AI development. I urge the legislature to support opportunities for New York’s students to lead responsible AI research that will have the tremendous potential to improve the lives of all New Yorkers.”

Binghamton University notes that the funding is “contingent upon the passage” of Empire AI in the 2025 New York state budget and would support the SUNY school’s participation in Empire AI research and development.

Empire AI — which Gov. Kathy Hochul proposed and included in the Senate and Assembly one-house budget proposals — will establish a state-of-the-art AI computing center in Buffalo.

“Binghamton University sees tremendous potential for exciting research, education and economic development opportunities related to the Empire AI initiative,” Binghamton University President Harvey Stenger said. “We are thrilled that Tom Secunda is choosing to support Binghamton so generously within this transformational area of research. Tom visited campus recently with Governor Hochul and met with faculty studying how to use AI to solve important societal issues ranging from healthcare to information security. His gift will advance Binghamton’s research efforts and Empire AI will provide essential links to other institutions across the state.”

Empire AI will be the “first project of its kind in the country, with research geared toward the public good and overseen by educational institutions, placing New York in the driver’s seat for future AI development,” Binghamton University said in its announcement.

University researchers are already working on a number of projects that use AI to tackle important societal issues. They range from protecting power systems from malicious attacks to developing a robotic seeing-eye dog for people who are blind.

About Empire AI

The Empire AI consortium includes SUNY (including Binghamton University), the City University of New York, Columbia University, Cornell University, New York University, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and the Flatiron Institute.

It will lead the development for responsible AI that is “focused on serving the people of New York first.” New York’s leading institutions will use the center to promote responsible research and development, create jobs, and unlock AI opportunities across the state, Binghamton University said.