George Eastman, founder and long-time Chief Executive of the Eastman Kodak Company, served as an Institute trustee from 1890-1915, and Chairman of the Board from 1913-1915. He was a generous benefactor of the Mechanics Institute and donated much of the funds for the original Eastman building on the downtown campus.
He provided the impetus to raise the Institute's first endowment money and buy its first property. In 1892 he raised money for the Mechanics Institute by offering to subscribe $5,000 if nine other people matched his donation. These combined donations were significant in enabling the rapid growth of the downtown campus.