By: Taylor Bradford ‘19 and Madeline Linnell ‘17
Editor-in-Chief & Managing Editor
An anonymous donor is giving Gordon College $25 million.
The gift, to be made in five annual installments, will add $20 million to the college’s endowment, which is currently $42 million. This will increase the endowment by about 50 percent, further enabling the College to provide scholarships including a new four-year honors program. The remaining $5 million (of the overall $25 million) will serve to initiate the design and construction of a new building and cover smaller initiatives and institutional priorities.
“It will go down as, certainly, one of the most significant milestone moments of the history of Gordon College,” President D. Michael Lindsay said in an interview with the Tartan.
Board of Trustees member Lisa Forkner announced the news to the Gordon community during today’s Chapel. Lindsay shared the news with faculty and staff earlier this morning.
“This is the largest irrevocable gift commitment in the history of the college and four times larger than any previous gift in Gordon’s history,” Forkner said. “It’s also one of the largest gifts received by a Christian institution of higher education in the past five years.”
This is, in other words, likely to be Gordon College’s favorite Valentine’s Day ever.
College endowments consist of funds that are invested. Typically, a portion of the proceeds of those investments is used each year while the principle remains untouched and grows with new gifts and the unspent portion of each year’s returns.
The anonymous donor behind the $25 million has stipulated how the gift, both the $5 million available for immediate spending and the return on the $20 million that will be invested, will be used. Vice President of Marketing and External Relations Rick Sweeney said, “It’s important to not to think that someone is just giving us a huge, blank check. It doesn’t change our budgets and the need to be good stewards of our Source. That is still a priority.”
Lindsay added in the interview: “It’s really about a long-term financial foundation for the college.”
In light of the longevity of this donation, student Luan Cadahia ‘19 said, “It is a weird in-between feeling, just because students don’t tend to think long term, and they are putting it all into the long term. So, we aren’t going to see any of the benefits now, which is disappointing. But looking ahead, it is going to be super awesome that someone truly wanted to invest in the students of Gordon and that is amazing.”
Lindsay said the college received the gift because “the donor is very impressed with the quality of a Gordon education and sees the future direction of the college as the most promising of any Christian institution.”
With this money, the donor “wanted to try and help us to continue in our attempt to keep a Gordon education affordable and, at the same, to make sure that Gordon had a strong financial foundation for the future,” Lindsay said.
The first initiative funded by the investment earnings produced by the new funds will be a new Global Honors Institute, which will be led by alumnus Dr. William Barker, the current Center of Faith and Inquiry director. Barker said that the donation is an “enormous act of generosity that is instructive for all of us.” The Institute will bring together existing honors programs such as departmental honors, PIKE and JAF as well as a new, four-year honors’ program called the Global Honors Scholar Program.
Led by Barker, the program will be the “first scholarship that is fully funded by endowment dollars,” said Lindsay. The preliminary cohort,12 students, will have a combination of of curricular and co-curricular opportunities.
“The scholarship will support students’ tuition, as well as a U.S. vision trip for the students after their freshman year. The scholarship will also support a missions experience somewhere in the world after students’ sophomore year,” Lindsay said during chapel, according to a copy of his prepared remarks provided to the Tartan.
Barker said the foundation of the program is to teach students the Christian understanding of what honor is–to lead a life based on sacrifice and service to Christ and others. In addition to this foundation, the program is built on two pillars, says Barker. The first pillar is global engagement, since “our God is a global god.” The second pillar is having an “entrepreneurial mind-set,” that is, to encourage “creative and persistent attempts of finding solutions for the world,” says Barker. “It is a matter of thinking out of the box, which requires a great amount of persistence.”
Professor Paul Brink said that the new Institute overall is an exciting development” and “tremendous boost for faculty efforts.” Brink said this will “affect the whole student body” as there will be more “excellent students” in classrooms.
Another faculty member, long-time Biblical Studies professor Marv Wilson, commented on the gift, saying, “Hallelujah, praise the Lord. That is a marvelous lesson to the college that can’t be really put into words. It is incredible. When you realize what can be done with that for this group here now and for years to come.”
To pilot the ideas of innovation planned for this scholarship, the AJ Gordon Scholars will be the “first cohort of students that will be housed under that program” beginning Fall 2017. This will be jointly led by Chris Carlson and Barker. Lindsay noted that while they will not be the first recipients of this scholarship, they will be part of the program.
The hope is that by Fall 2018, the finalized program will be two, separate initiatives under the Institute honors opportunity. The first will be the 12 Global Gordon Honors Scholars, that will be funded by this gift, and the 18 AJ Gordon Fellows.
The final initiative is to erect a new building that will be called the Center for Leadership and the Arts. The Center will provide performance and public lecture space that seats 250 to 300 audience members. Sweeney said the space will be bigger than Phillips Recital Hall, which seats 175, but smaller than A.J. Memorial Chapel, which seats 1,500. The scope and location of this new Center have yet to be determined.
“The gift provides the amount money that they need for the design and planning of the entire building, and to fund Phase I. There will be two other phases, II and III, that will require additional fundraising so we will begin the process of fundraising funds for those additional phases in the future,” said Lindsay.
In addition to the three main areas this gift will reach, it was announced during the community meeting for all faculty and staff this morning that employees will receive a gift of gratitude from the College including extra time off and funding for academic initiatives.
Today’s historic announcement was made in three parts:
President Lindsay invited all faculty and staff members to convene at 8 a.m. for a community meeting where the announcement was made by the Board of Trustees.
A conference call was led by members of the Cabinet and Board with more than 100 donors, parents and other supporters around the world.
And finally, what most students witnessed, a brief overview of the gift and it’s impact on the College was explained to those who attended chapel by Forkner and President Lindsay.
Chan Yoon ‘17 said, “It’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for Gordon in the future. It gives us tremendous financial stability and at the same time, it’s a donation that Gordon very much needed and it will be an opportunity for more donations to open up. For us, it won’t have an immediate effect for the seniors and the juniors, but at the same time, for the future students, it will have more impact. I hope that more of our class members will do the same in the future.”