Colleges Receive Millions In Anonymous Donations

By Staff

April 17, 2009

Scholarships will increase in at least 11 colleges and universities, the result of an unprecedented number of anonymous donations totaling over $50 million given since March 1.

The Associated Press [from an article originally located at] reports on various institutions of higher learning that recently received significant sums from unidentified sources: Purdue University received $8 million, the University of Iowa received $7 million, the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Maryland University College each received $6 million and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs received $5.5 million. Meanwhile, Norfolk State University received $3.5 million, Penn State-Harrisburg received $3 million and the University of North Carolina at Asheville received $1.5 million.

College officials were stunned by the size of the donations, and were particularly amazed to receive them during such difficult economic times.

"I've been in this business a long time, and you don't just get an $8 million dollar check at one time," noted Murray Blackwelder, Purdue's senior vice president for advancement, who was quoted in Indiana's Journal & Courier. The gift ranks among the school's 30 largest donations.

All of the donations were given with the stipulation that most of the funds must be spent on student scholarships.

"This extraordinary gift to Penn State Harrisburg is significant on many levels," echoed campus Chancellor Madlyn Hanes in Harrisburg's Patriot-News, "not the least of which is its size-the largest single gift ever to the college. It comes at a time of tremendous growth for us, brought by the high demand for a Penn State education in the capital region. It comes at a time when financial needs among our students have never been greater. And it provides tremendous leveraging power from which we can build even greater support for important priorities."

The donations are especially unique because while typically schools know the identities of anonymous donors but agree not to reveal them, in the recent cases the donors' identities remained a complete mystery. All the schools had to agree not to investigate the identity of the giver, and the checks were sent though lawyers or other middlemen.

William Massey, vice chancellor for alumni at development at UNC-Asheville, said that the school even contacted the Department of Homeland Security and the IRS to confirm that the funds were not illegal.

Two other schools that also recently received sizable anonymous donations include Michigan's Kalamazoo College, which received $1 million, and Montclair State University in New Jersey, which received $5 million, the largest anonymous gift in the school's history. Both donations are being designated for scholarships for minorities and women as per the donors' instructions.

The Kalamazoo Gazette reports that the check to Kalamazoo College arrived with a note saying, "It is hoped that this gift will make a substantial difference to your students during these challenging times enabling a more confident, sharper focus on their studies with improved career and life prospects."

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