College Philanthropy Is Alive And Well


Colleges and universities across the US are still reaping the generosity of gifts bestowed to them by corporations, supporters, and alumni. Despite college endowmenteconomic pressures which are hitting the vast majority of Americans, donations to public and private schools of higher learning continue to run strong.

Some gifts come with strings attached, such as setting up a specific academic chair or renaming a business school for the donor, while others are given freely with some offered in total anonymity.

Not every gift involves money with some bequests made in the form of land, stock, or other transferable assets. Among the more notable gifts of the past few years were:

  • Chatham University in Pittsburgh, PA received a gift in the form of a 400-acre farm. The Eden Hall farm, donated by the foundation of the same name, will be used by the school as a living laboratory and to address issues of environmental sustainability.
  • Douglas L. and Maria Bayer of Washington State donated one million dollars to Knox College in Illinois with the stipulation that the funds be used to establish an academic chair of Earth Sciences. Knox, who made his fortune at Microsoft, credits a pair of Knox instructors with helping him learn to think for himself, not what to think.
  • Ohio Wesleyan University received a gift from the estate of Robert C. Manchester, M.D., a 1927 graduate of the college. His six million dollar bequest was added to the Ida Austin Manchester Scholarship Fund, which he and his sisters, Ohio Wesleyan graduates Winifred Manchester and Lois Manchester Mack, established in 1986 in memory of their mother to aid students who have achieved scholastic excellence.
  • Tiny as it is, The College of Saint Benedict in St. Joseph, MN was able to build a new dining and conference center thanks to a $3.5 million gift from Ben and Dorothy Gorecki of Milaca, MN. The couple’s connection to the college is through their granddaughter who attended the school; the donation was the largest one ever received by Saint Benedict, a college with just 2000 students.
  • In 2005, Wellesley College had the distinction of receiving the single largest contribution ever made to a women’s college. Leonie Faroll, a lifelong New Yorker and Wellesley grad, asked that the funds be used for capital improvements to the power plant and for infrastructure improvements, structural renovations, and new equipment in the Massachusetts school’s Science Center.
  • Though many donations made to colleges and universities are for an expressed purpose, Colgate University received a ten million dollar donation to the school’s endowment fund, the largest monies ever given to this fund. Colgate’s donor was anonymous and the university says the money will be used to help make changes to certain campus facilities as well as to support Colgate’s strategic plan.

Of course, tens of thousands of donations are made every month to schools of higher learning in amounts that often do not get the publicity that the big donors receive. When it comes to huge fundraising campaigns, it is the collective gifts of the smaller donors which bring in the most cash, sometimes adding hundreds of millions dollars to a school’s coffers.


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