Farmingdale State College announced Wednesday it had received a $1 million gift -- the largest in its history -- from nursing home entrepreneur Theresa Patnode Santmann, an alumna and Babylon resident.
Santmann's gift will "change this institution for years to come," creating four scholarships and supporting faculty research, Farmingdale president W. Hubert Keen said in a ceremony outside Gleeson Hall. The college's School of Health Science, which has about 700 students and offers degrees in nursing, medical lab technology and dental hygiene, will bear Santmann's name.
In brief remarks, Santmann, who earned her nursing degree at Farmingdale in 1969, said the college's students and staff were "an extraordinary group, and I'm proud of all of you."
Later, in an interview, Santmann said her gift was a matter of "priorities." The programs she invested in "can move forward the entire health process," she said.
There was also, she said, a purely selfish motive behind her giving: "As you go along in life, if you bump into something that makes you feel good inside, do it."
The gift followed cuts in funding to the State University of New York system and the threat of tuition increases for students. It was the second substantial gift in recent weeks to a Long Island college or university. Earlier this month, Hofstra University announced a $20 million gift to the law school from Maurice A. Deane, an alumnus who is a former pharmaceutical executive and a longtime donor. The law school will bear his name.
Santmann sold her nursing home business last year, she said. In 2000, according to Newsday's annual ranking, it was the fourth-largest female-owned business on Long Island. She founded the Little Flower Adult Home in Babylon in the 1960s, before she graduated from Farmingdale, and opened the Little Flower Nursing Home in East Islip in 1973 and the Petite Fleur Nursing Home in Sayville, in 1993. Together, they employed more than 400 people.
Santmann also sits on the boards of Babylon Citizens Council on the Arts and Splashes of Hope, a Huntington-based nonprofit group that paints murals in hospitals and institutions.
Her late husband, John, diagnosed with Lou Gehrig's disease, was her first patient.