After launching the public phase of the capital campaign “Our Path Forward” last week, the College has raised another $24 million, bringing the total raised to date to $224 million, according to President Sean Decatur.
The campaign’s kickoff weekend was the biggest in College history.
“Typically when an institution goes public, it is halfway to its goal. Kenyon is nearly 75 percent to our goal, and that’s extraordinary,” Associate Vice President for Alumni and Parent Engagement Scott Baker ’94 said. “It speaks to the passion that alumni and parents have for Kenyon.”
“This is one of the cases that when we talk about ‘in perpetuity,’ that [an endowment] is something that can impact students over the course of centuries and is a pretty remarkable thing for a donor to be able to do to have that kind of impact,” Decatur said, citing the first endowment which was given in the 12th century at Oxford University and is still in operation.
An endowment fund for a college or university is a sum of money that the institution invests. The yearly earnings from that investment are then used for the annual operating budget, according to Decatur. Use of the endowment is restricted to items “defined as important to the function of the College,” he said. Donors can restrict their contributions further, earmarking a certain amount to go to a specific area of the College, such as financial aid.
The College typically draws about five percent from the endowment each year to support operations, according to Decatur.
The Board of Trustees received a report during its fall meeting this past weekend that the earnings from endowment were between nine and 10 percent last year, a return which is higher than usual, according to Decatur. The College is drawing about five percent from the endowment; the remaining earnings will help to grow the endowment, account for inflation and prepare for a down year.
Assuming that the College meets its $300 million goal in 2021, it would be able to draw about $15 million annually to support the operating budget. This is an improvement, especially considering that for years Kenyon’s endowment has been notoriously low. According to a Feb. 2014 Collegian article, the endowment stood at $206.8 million in 2014.
On Oct. 12 recipients of endowed funds dined with their respective donors. The dinner emphasized support for financial aid and scholarships. Among the featured speakers were Alexa Yoo ’21 and Melzetta Moody ’05, who described the importance of financial aid in their lives.
“[Moody’s] description of what the financial aid and scholarship meant to her and her ability to come to Kenyon, how it’s had a ripple effect to her family, and what she’s been able to do to support her sisters to go to college and really change the fortunes of her family going forward,” Decatur said. “I’m not sure there was a dry eye in the house when Melzetta Moody was speaking. It was a very moving experience.”
The following evening, the College held a dinner in celebration of the campaign’s progress at the Kenyon Athletic Center. Just before his closing remarks to cap-off the weekend, Decatur announced that a long-time member of the Board ofTrustees who was seated next to him had just committed an additional $10 million to the College.
“[It was] a decision he had told me at dinner,” Decatur said. “I know that it wasn’t completely spontaneous, but it was a wonderful surprise.” It was this unexpected gift that put the current total at $224 million.
In addition to the invitation-only dinner, the campaign’s Saturday schedule featured the dedication of the newly constructed Keithley House, a block party in the Village, a conversation about the economics of higher education with David Feldman ’78 and Decatur, and a faculty panel discussion.
“One of the things alums take away is that the quality of teaching at Kenyon is so high and their special relationship with faculty members,” Decatur said about the panel. “But they’re often thinking of professors that they had 30 to 40 years ago, and so part of this was to remind them that we still have that tradition today.”
In addition to the panel, Karen Hicks in the Department of Biology, James Keller in the Department of Chemistry, Sam Pack in the Department of Anthropology and Jaret Treber in the Department of Economics were all promoted to full professor and approved by the Academic Affairs Committee of the Board of Trustees during its Friday meeting, according to an Oct. 17 bulletin.
The Office of Alumni and Parent Engagement will hold an event for Kenyon families over Family Weekend at 11 a.m. on Oct. 20 in Rosse Hall. It will also take the public launch of the campaign to Boston; Washington, D.C., New York; Chicago and San Francisco next semester, with additional cities next year, according to Baker.
The weekend went smoothly and was an overall success, according to Decatur. “It was wonderful to see and hear testimonials from donors, especially those who were talking about their commitment to financial aid scholarship and building endowment on campus,” he said. “That’s really important for Kenyon moving forward. For me that was the big powerful message.”