Even as far back as 1913, Williams was doing its best to establish a nest egg for the future.  An article in the wonderful New York Times archives describes then-President Garfield’s announcement of a $2 million endowment effort.  True to form, he already had about 25% lined up and more pledged to match.  This effort was announced at the “alumni luncheon” following commencement.  I wonder if Morty will have any exciting announcements this weekend during reunions?

I continue to enjoy the fact that Williams College news made it to the New York Times with great regularity back in the day.  Including such exciting events as the alumni beating the varsity basketball team in a game.  Yes, really.  I can’t find the link again at the moment, but it was great.  In the 1920s, someone wrote in with that bit of news – including the roster and some form of a box score from the game – and it was published in the Times.

You can see the article in its original form (scanned a little crookedly, but readable) here.

WILLIAMS SEEKS $2,000,000.
President Garfield at Commencement Tells Endowment Plans.

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 25 — At the alumni luncheon following the commencement exercises at Williams College to-day, President Harry A. Garfield announced that the college would attempt to obtain an endowment fund of $2,000,000.  Half of the first million appeared to be in sight, he said.  The General Education Board of New York, Rockefeller Foundation, had offered $100,000 when the college should raise $500,000.  Mrs. Russell Sage had contributed $50,000, and $200,000 more had been promised conditionally.  To this, President Garfield said, $150,000 might be added from an estate over which litigation recently ended.

The need for $1,000,000, Dr. Garfield said, was immediate, as that sum would hardly do more than make up the annual deficit, and a second million must be had to do justice by the teaching force and the future.  The college, he pointed out, had prospered by buildings presented, but giving for endowment had not been popular and the faculty as a result had been kept on low pay.

President Garfield said that while the salaries of the teachers at Williams had increased more than $50,000 in the last twelve years, the maximum paid to any professor was only $500 in excess of the amount paid in 1900, and the largest amount now received by any professor was $3,200.  The President believed desirable to raise the maximum at once to $4,000, with corresponding increases to all professors and assistant professors.

Williams graduated 115 young men with the degree of bachelor of arts.  Among the honorary degrees conferred were these:  Doctor of Laws, Charles B. Wheeler, ’73, of Buffalo, a Justice of the New York Supreme Court; Master of Arts, Albert Rathbone, ’88, lawyer of New York.

Copyright (c) The New York Times, originally published June 26, 1913

Thoughts on professor salaries as an effective fundraising ploy?  Did everyone notice the names of those donors?  I would love to know whose estate was being challenged – possibly over the gift to Williams?  Any Williams history buffs know what famous alum or former prof died sometime around 1913?

I’d also like to say that this shows some shrewd planning by somebody.  Capitalizing on the strength of our alumni to start building those funds way back when undoubtedly built a foundation for the massive pile of cash we’re sitting on today.  Granted, Williams graduated a lot of young men from old money families, so this kind of strategy was likely old hat to them although it seems practically clairvoyant to those of us brought up without trust funds, family homes, and other such personal “endowments.”

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