PR Doesn’t Have To Be All Bad News: Making The Most Of A Billion-Dollar Gift To The Albert Einstein College of Medicine

The announcement of a billion-dollar gift from Chair of the Board of Trustees and former faculty member Ruth Gottesman (and her late husband Sandy) to the Albert Einstein College of Medicine means free tuition for hard-working medical students who would otherwise graduate with a mountain of debt.  The video of students and faculty leaping out of their seats with absolute joy at  the announcement is a memorable one, and what a pleasure it must have been to communicate this “good news” story – when so often, the communicators are busy anticipating negative issues and dealing with crisis situations.

93-year-old Gottesman joined Einstein in 1968 and is best known for her work developing screening tools for children with learning problems and launching an adult literacy program.  Her husband Sandy, who passed away at age 96, was a friend of Warren Buffett and made his money as an early Berkshire Hathaway shareholder.  His instructions to his wife on what to do with his fortune:  “Do what you think is right.”  So, Gottesman gave in a way that “pays it forward” to medical students, their families, the College of Medicine and the NY healthcare system.  (Einstein College is connected to the 10-hospital Montefiore Health System). Talk about making an impact.

How much money, exactly, are these future healthcare workers saving? Tuition at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine this year is nearly $60,000, and the school recommends students budget at least another $35,000 a year for living expenses, books and other incidentals. The program lasts four years.

The cost of higher education has become astronomical – according to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the median debt load nationwide for medical students who took out loans was $200,000 in 2023. 84% of those students borrowed at least $100,000.

This gift, which will be used to cover tuition for all current and future students, is life-changing for many.  Dr. Yaron Tomer, the medical school’s dean, stated that the donation “radically revolutionizes our ability to continue attracting students who are committed to our mission, not just those who can afford it.”

Other medical schools have launched similar tuition-scholarship programs in recent years, using financial aid to recruit top students and to help fill shortages in lower-paying fields like pediatrics and internal medicine. The medical school at New York University covers full tuition for all students, while Columbia University covers the cost of medical students with financial need.

PR: Identifying Problems and Creating Opportunities

At Jackson Jackson & Wagner, we talk about helping clients solve problems and create opportunities.  So many opportunities now exist for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine to:

  • Attract the best and brightest medical students without the barrier of huge tuition costs
  • Use the triggering event of this exceptionally-large gift to challenge graduates who attended medical school free to pay it forward with their own gifts
  • Offers the ability to encourage graduates to focus on giving back by serving in rural and underserved areas rather than having to earn money to pay off debt.

PR will also be needed to anticipate fallout issues like:

  • Decreased support as a result of the $1 Billion Gift.  According to the recent report, CASE Insights on Voluntary Support of Education CASE Insights on Voluntary Support of Education | CASE, giving to colleges and universities fell 5 percent, after inflation, during the 2023 financial year, which ran from July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023. A slowdown in individual giving — by alumni and others — powered the decline.
    •  Alumni contributions fell 13 percent, after inflation, and gifts from individuals who are not alumni decreased at roughly the same rate.

For now, though, let’s just enjoy the moment of generosity that changed history for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

Robin Schell, APR, Fellow PRSA is Senior Counsel and Partner at Jackson Jackson & Wagner, a behavioral public relations and management firm based in the Seacoast of NH.  For more information, contact her at or visit the JJ&W website:

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