Westmont Magazine $75 Million Gift Stuns Campus
It’s Among the Largest Donations Ever to a National Liberal Arts College
Clad in colorful academic robes, faculty celebrated the installation of Mark Nelson in the Kenneth and Peggy Monroe Chair of Philosophy Oct. 27 in chapel. Provost Shirley Mullen praised the couple’s careful stewardship that yielded a $3.5 million bequest. “The Monroes continued to believe in Westmont even during very difficult times,” Mullen said. “They knew God was not done with the college.”
Then Chancellor David Winter stepped to the podium to close the program. He spoke of another couple who believed in Westmont, who had chosen to make an astonishing gift to the college: $75 million. Gasping in surprise, the campus community gave a spontaneous standing ovation.
“This is momentous news,” Winter said. “It will enable us to move to an entirely new level of effectiveness in accomplishing our mission as a liberal arts college deeply rooted in the historic Christian faith. This gift allows us to build and endow the facilities that will secure our place among the finest liberal arts schools in the nation.”
The anonymous donors wish to be recognized only as friends of the college who believe in its mission. “Our society and the world need leaders with deep personal character and Christian commitment in addition to a broad liberal arts education,” they said. “We have been very impressed with Westmont students and graduates and believe that these young men and women will make a difference in the world.”
“We are thankful for what has been accomplished in the past, but we have long desired the resources that would enable us to contribute more significantly to the needs of our society and world,” said David Eaton, chair of the board of trustees. “It would be impossible to express the level of gratitude we feel for these friends who have demonstrated confidence in the future of Westmont and made all this possible.”
Philanthropy has always played a key role in American higher education, but during the last decade the size of individual gifts has increased significantly. Most of these donations benefit the nation’s largest and most recognizable universities. It is extraordinary for a national liberal arts college to receive such a large gift, and it is among the largest donations ever to such an institution.
Convinced the trustees know best how to allocate the $75 million, the donors did not designate the funds. But they believe the college needs new facilities, including a chapel, and the trustees agree. At their October meeting, the board decided to apply the gift toward the construction and endowment of buildings in the first phase of the updated campus master plan. The college is in the final stage of a six-year process to gain approval for new facilities, including another science building, an art center, a chapel, a residence hall, an observatory and a track/soccer field.
“I don’t think there are words to properly describe this gift,” said Paul Sheff, vice president of development and alumni relations at College of the Holy Cross . “I started with ‘Wow!,’ moved on to ‘Magnificent,’ and then gave up. That this person would want to remain anonymous is startling apart from the size of the gift. I love the phrase in your press release that described the donor: ‘a friend of the college who believes in its mission.’ A friend? Yes, indeed. Good for you, good for Westmont, and especially good for the young men and women who will benefit from the good work this gift will accomplish.”
“Oh this is breathtaking!” said Catherine Baer, vice president for development at Vassar College. “We just finished the inauguration activities for our 10th president, so I am again turning my attention to fundraising. This is the kind of good news that will motivate all of us to reach high and far for what we believe in.”
“Williams has never received a gift of this size,” said Stephen Birrell, vice president for development and alumni relations at Williams College. “It will be truly transforming. I know that lots of hard work went into achieving this, and I am so pleased for you and for Westmont.”