When he returned to teaching in-person this semester, Vinod Menon, a physics professor at City College of New York in Harlem, finally looked through a pile of office mail and found a cardboard box the size of a toaster.The box, heavy enough to warrant $90 in postage for priority U.S. mail, was addressed to “Chairman, Physics Department” — his title.Maybe it was a token of thanks from a former student, Dr. Menon thought, as he inspected the package, which was postmarked Nov. 10, 2020. It had been sitting for more than nine months, first in the campus mailroom and then in the physics office.For Dr. Menon, 49, who specializes in nano- and microphotonics, an exciting moment usually comes in a campus laboratory with some breakthrough in the exploration of the way light interacts with matter on a quantum level.But the matter contained in the cardboard box gave him quite a charge. It was full of $50 and $100 bills bundled in paper bands, totaling $180,000.An enclosed letter to Dr. Menon explained that the cash was a donation meant to help needy physics and math students at City College.“It was a complete shock — I know a lot of academics and I’ve never heard of anything like this,” he said. “I didn’t know if the college accepted cash, so I didn’t know if they’d keep it.”
Readers, they kept it. I hope that someday, I could be this generous.