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Amherst Recieves $125 Million in Donations

From the turncoats to the east:

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.

1) Frank Uible ’57 writes, “hwc: Do these two gifts save Amherst’s financial bacon?” Excellent question! One issue is determining whether or not these gifts were already factored in to Amherst’s $425 million comprehensive campaign, which started last year. If they were — if, that is, Amherst already knew about these gifts, was, indeed, counting on them to make the $425 million target, then they don’t really tell us much. If Williams can raise over $500 million in its recent campaign, then getting “just” $425 million is not overly impressive, especially if you are committed to increasing the size of the student body with lower income students. But, if these gifts came out of nowhere, then they represent a huge win for Amherst.

2) Williams collected no (?) large donations as a part of its recent capital campaign, even though the official targets sought multiple gifts over $25 million. Why wasn’t Williams able to snag any very large donations?

3) From a purely economic point of view, perhaps the worst aspect of Morty’s departure was his failure to seal the deal on a $100 million gift from any of the richest alumni whom he had spent the previous decade building relationships with. Greg Avis, Jon Kraft and others — judging from their public comments about Morty — were all huge fans. But Morty can’t ask them for money anymore, unless it is for Northwestern. We will never know how much money Morty cost Williams by leaving, just so he could become cheerleader-in-chief at a Division 1 school.

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#1 Comment By JeffZ On November 5, 2009 @ 2:35 pm

First, $100 million doesn’t exactly grow on trees — there have been very, very, very few gifts to liberal arts college above the largest gift Williams has ever received (which I think is around 25 million), and the odds are, it is somewhat random to find an alum (a) wealthy enough that they can comfortably give that much away (b) inclined to gift it all in one lump sum to their alma mater. Amherst had one such alum, Williams, to date, has zero — not exactly indicative of anything more than happenstance.

Second, if Morty didn’t secure such a gift during a fundraising drive and during the planned construction of four massive new buildings on campus (all with great naming opportunities), why do you think he’d be able to secure one had he stayed on an extra year or two? Sometimes fresh blood and a fresh voice is needed for fundraising, and very few modern college presidents last beyond one major campaign, and for good reasons. Falk will have his shot during the next capital campaign, the planning for which will probably begin not long after he settles into his office (the quiet phase you figure will start around 2011-2012, maybe depending in part on where the markets are in a year or two).

Third, Amherst has already raised, in the quiet phase and first year, 350 million out of a goal of 425. How much did Williams raise by the end of year one of its last campaign, as a percentage of 400 million? I am guessing it is far less, meaning that these massive donations will likely spur Amherst’s campaign to earn more than 20 percent over its goal, which is where Williams’ campaign ended up. Of course, my memory could be wrong — does anyone know how much Williams had raised one year into Climb Far?

#2 Comment By ’12 On November 5, 2009 @ 9:30 pm

I doubt that Williams will ever get $100 million out of me, let alone $1 million. But I already give my high school $15 a year so they can claim higher alumni participation, and I’ll do the same for Williams as soon as I graduate. Although it takes a lot of <$1000 donations to reach the big bucks, Williams seems to do pretty well in getting alums all over the place monetarily to contribute each year.