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April 3, 2020

From lap of luxury, laptops for city students

PHOTO | New Haven BIZ Jeffrey Weber announces his $50,000 gift during Mayor Justin Elicker’s Thursday streaming media briefing.

A wealthy Westport investor and philanthropist has pledged $50,000 to the New Haven Public Schools for the purchase of 200 Chromebook laptop computers to provide access to digital learning for economically disadvantaged students to participate in virtual classroom activities during the coronavirus crisis.

Jeffrey Weber, a Cheshire native who describes himself as a “jaded investor and burgeoning philanthropist,” announced the gift during New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker’s daily media briefing Thursday afternoon.

A self-proclaimed “early COVID Cassandra,” Weber explained that “I am donating $50,000 to New Haven Public Schools to put 200 Chromebooks in students’ hands.

“That’s pretty cool,” he added, “probably the coolest thing I’ve ever done.”  

“In a wealthy town like Westport, education continues online” during the crisis, Weber explained. “My kids learned today. But in New Haven, and Bridgeport, and Norwalk, learning has come to a standstill,” he added. “That’s why we want to put Chromebooks in the hands of every student in New Haven.”

Weber said that in making the gift he was following the example of “two of my financial market heroes — [Greenwich hedge-fund billionaires] Ray Dalio and Paul Tudor Jones, who are shining a charitable light on these fine cities” — Dalio through his public-private Partnership for Connecticut, which seeks to enhance educational and career opportunities for disadvantaged young people in Connecticut.

“While Connecticut is dearest to me, I’m sure there are kids in Seattle who could use some laptops from [Amazon’s] Jeff Bezos,” Weber said. “And Elon Musk — I love you, man, and my kids idolize you. But dude — there are plenty of kids in California who need laptops to prepare for trips to Mars.

“The world’s crazy-rich geniuses need to make learning happen yesterday,” Weber added.


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