The response to Lawrence University’s announcement of a $25 million matching gift from an anonymous donor for student scholarships has been overwhelming.
Since announcing the largest gift in Lawrence history on Sept. 17, the university has received $11.4 million in matching gifts and pledges, more than 45 percent of the full match amount.
When fully matched, an additional $50 million will be added to Lawrence’s endowment earmarked exclusively for student scholarship support.
More than 260 donors have contributed to the scholarship matching effort to date with gifts ranging from $20 to $5 million. Underscoring the broad appeal of the match, more than half (54 percent) of the matching gifts have been for less than $250, with more than 100 of those for less than $100.
The scholarship endowment will be used for students with demonstrated financial need.
“It is inspiring to see this outpouring of generosity from the Lawrence community and know each dollar will support a student on this campus,” said President Mark Burstein. “The need-based scholarships generated by this endowment will greatly enhance our efforts to make a Lawrence education affordable to families across the socioeconomic spectrum. The funds raised so far will support over 75 Lawrence students forever.”
Hugh Denison, a 1968 Lawrence graduate, who has committed $1 million to the matching gift effort, said the decision he and his wife, Mary, made to do so, “is one of the best we’ve ever made. We will enjoy seeing the results of that decision for years to come.”
“While it’s perfectly appropriate to categorize this as a gift to Lawrence, we actually view it more as an investment in the next generation of students who will have the same opportunity for the world-class education that I received,” said Denison, former senior vice president, research director and portfolio manager at Heartland Advisors, Inc., a Milwaukee-based investment firm.
“My wife and I were blessed with families who could pay for our educations when we attended college, but we know that is becoming a rarity these days,” Denison added. “We’re gratified to be able to make a difference and provide scholarship assistance to many students who might otherwise be unable to afford the great education Lawrence provides.”
Cara Helmke, a 2000 Lawrence graduate, called Lawrence’s new scholarship endowment “the gift that keeps on giving.”
“The day I heard the news, I knew I wanted to contribute,” said Helmke, a Wisconsin native now living in Clovis, Calif., and working as a hospital billing analyst. “It feels good to give to Lawrence. It feels even better to have those dollars matched again and support students in perpetuity. With less stress over financial obligations, students can focus on academic and extracurricular activities or other life-changing experiences.
“Whether large or small, each contribution gets the university closer to the $50 million goal,” Helmke added. “Collectively, we can provide a world of opportunity for future generations of Lawrence students.”
Support for the scholarship effort extends beyond the ranks of Lawrence alumni to include current faculty. Claudena Skran, Edwin and Ruth West Professor of Economics and Social Science and professor of government, along with her husband, David Duncombe, have made a $100,000 commitment to create a scholarship targeting international students.
“Lawrence has a great tradition of educating students from abroad and we would like this tradition to continue,” said Skran, a specialist in international relations and refugee issues who joined the Lawrence faculty in 1990. “Students who attend Lawrence form a community that extends in time beyond their four years here and in scope beyond the Appleton campus. Many international students have shared how much attending Lawrence has changed their perspective of the world and of themselves.
According to Skran, supporting the scholarship effort pays dividends to more than just the student recipients.
“Beyond the students who receive the scholarships” said Skran, “others at Lawrence – students, faculty and staff members – benefit as well if the scholarships help make our campus more globally diverse.”
About Lawrence University
Founded in 1847, Lawrence University uniquely integrates a college of liberal arts and sciences with a nationally recognized conservatory of music, both devoted exclusively to undergraduate education. It was selected for inclusion in the Fiske Guide to Colleges 2015 and the book “Colleges That Change Lives: 40 Schools That Will Change the Way You Think About College.” Engaged learning, the development of multiple interests and community outreach are central to the Lawrence experience. Lawrence draws its 1,500 students from nearly every state and more than 50 countries.