November 3, 2009

AMHERST, Mass. – Two graduates of Amherst College have pledged separate gifts of $100 million and $25 million to their alma mater, it was announced Tuesday. The two gifts are the largest in the history of Amherst College, and the $100 million pledge is believed to be the largest unrestricted cash gift ever to a liberal arts college.

The gifts are intended to support the college’s on-going efforts to provide the finest possible undergraduate education and access to it, and to maintain Amherst’s standing as the most selective and the most diverse liberal arts college, said Amherst College President Anthony W. Marx.

“In a difficult economic moment, when institutions and individuals have fewer resources, these unrestricted gifts to the endowment represent extraordinary votes of support for Amherst College, and the mission of educational quality and access at liberal arts colleges in general,” Marx said.

Both donors have decided to remain anonymous, preferring that the focus of their gifts be on the college rather than on themselves, Marx said.

“They are grateful for the opportunities that an Amherst College education has provided them, and remain inspired by the values the college holds dear,” Marx said. “They hope that their gifts will inspire other alumni to come forward and help ensure that future generations will benefit from an Amherst College education as well.”

Each of the donors did agree to provide a statement, however.

The donor of the $100 million gift said:

“I make this gift in recognition of the unique education I received at Amherst, and as an expression of support of Amherst College’s mission. I hope other alumni will be inspired to further support the college, at a time when the economy is stressing the resources of all higher educational institutions. Amherst is a jewel of enlightenment, social mobility based on talent, and preparation for leadership that we must all maintain.”

The donor of the $25 million gift said:

"This gift is to support Amherst College’s commitment to providing the finest quality undergraduate education, and to provide access to students of extraordinary potential, regardless of their ability to pay, enabling them to lead the lives of consequence to which we all aspire.”

The $25 million gift pledge, to be paid over 5 years, will provide unrestricted operating support for Amherst College, as will the $100 million gift pledge, which also will be paid over five years.

Marx said he was humbled by the donors’ faith, in the College and its trustees, to allocate the resources where they are most needed, including enhancing financial aid, broadening access for high-achieving students; hiring more faculty and improving their resources and support; fostering modern and interdisciplinary approaches to education; growing alumni relationships in order to enhance opportunities for student research, internships, and service; and upgrading the College’s infrastructure by renovating existing facilities and building new ones.

A $425 million comprehensive campaign, titled Lives of Consequence, was launched last October, against a backdrop of declining equity markets, rising unemployment and growing unease about the economy.

“There are those who have said we could not have picked a worse time for a capital campaign, but look what has happened," said Jide Zeitlin, the chairman of Amherst College’s Board of Trustees. “These incredibly generous gifts are a stunning affirmation of the belief and support that these donors have for the mission and values of Amherst College, even during this challenging economic environment. It is my hope that other alumni will be inspired to do whatever they can to help support the college and its mission during these difficult times.”

Although the Lives of Consequence campaign was formally launched last October, fundraising had been proceeding during the campaign’s quiet phase for almost two years before that. The $100 million and the $25 million gifts are among seven commitments that comprise $206 million of the $350 million that the campaign has raised to date.

“I have been reassured and moved by the incredible support and number of gifts that have come in to the college,” Marx said. “Going forward, we will rely on the commitments of all sizes to reach our campaign goal, and ensure the College’s ability to preserve and strengthen its core values of academic excellence and accessibility to the most promising of students, regardless of their ability to pay.”

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