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Goucher College receives largest donation in 140 year history

Goucher College Campus. Credit: Rob Coyle, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Rob Coyle, CC BY 2.0
via Wikimedia Commons
Goucher College campus.

Goucher College is expecting its largest donation since opening as an all-women's liberal arts college in Towson 140 years ago.

The $55 million gift comes from the estate of 1951 alum Anica Donnan Rawnsley. Fifty million dollars will be directly invested in the college’s endowment.

“When I first got the call, I said, ‘Wait a second, is that 15 million, or 50 million?’” said Goucher President Kent Devereaux. “The scale of the donation is clearly a cut above anything else that we've received before. So it's just sheer elation, and shock in a good way, and then a huge sigh of relief and appreciation.”

Devereaux said the endowment investment will yield around $3 million each year for board members to spend. He anticipates most will be used to fund student scholarships — especially for those who are first-generation.

Ninety-seven percent of the student body receives some form of financial aid. And more than a third of Goucher’s students are the first in their family to go to college.

“Those students need more scholarship support, but they also need more student advising and help just to basically navigate college today,” Devereaux said.

Rawnsley left the use for her donation unrestricted, Devereaux said, which “allows the college to respond to whatever is the most pressing need of the time.”

“The beauty of this endowment is it's in perpetuity, it's just gonna be kicking off these earnings forever,” he said. Rawnsley served on the college’s board of trustees for 16 years after graduating, which meant she “understood very, very clearly how a gift should be made,” Devereaux said.

The remaining $5 million will be used to fill holes in Goucher’s current operating budget caused by the recent creation of new programs. The school just began offering graduate degrees in environmental studies, policy analysis and digital communications this fall.

“We're launching new initiatives that we know are not going to pay off this year, they're not going to pay off next year. So that means we're going to be operating at a deficit,” Devereaux said. “So the $5 million helps us underwrite those programs, get them off the ground, and two or three years from now, those programs are actually going to be contributing to the sustainability of the college.”

Devereaux said the college is thriving under recent alumni support, such as Rawnsley’s donation — and last year’s $10 million pledge from 1970 alum Judy Lewent to support the building of a new science center.

“Institutions like ours are only sustainable if you can continue to reinvest and pay back for the advantages that it has given you in your life,” he said.

Bri Hatch (they/them) is a Report for America Corps Member joining the WYPR team to cover education.
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