Anonymous donor gives $75M to Kenyon College
Kenyon College has received a whopping $75 million gift, the largest in the school’s nearly 200-year history.
The gift, from an anonymous donor, will support the development of a new library and academic quad at the liberal arts college of about 1,600 students in Knox County, the school announced Friday.
The donation triples Kenyon’s former largest single donation of $25 million, which the school received in 2002. The $75 million gift also is the largest-ever single gift to any private liberal arts college in Ohio, according to Kenyon’s announcement.
“These are gifts that happen rarely on the higher education landscape and certainly rarely for colleges of Kenyon’s size, so it is an exciting moment for the institution to have a gift that is truly transformational for the work that lies ahead,” Kenyon President Sean Decatur said.
The new quad, to be located on the west side of the Gambier campus, will have three new buildings: a library and academic commons with state-of-the art technology, an interdisciplinary academic building for the social sciences and a new building for admissions and key student services. The quad will contain underground parking to improve accessibility and gain green space.
“For a small college like Kenyon to have a gift like this, it is transformative in many ways,” said Kenyon Board of Trustees Chairman Brackett B. Denniston, adding that putting the donation toward facilities allows the college to focus on other important needs such as scholarships and affordability.
Students at the college, located about 50 miles northeast of Columbus, were invited to Rosse Hall Friday for a convocation-like gathering for the special announcement. The announcement also was being streamed live on Facebook.
“This is a special event for a special occasion,” Decatur said.
As for the donor, he or she has asked to remain anonymous — not an uncommon request in higher education. But university leaders know who it is.
“It is a person who has a great deal of pride and confidence in Kenyon as an institution,” Decatur said. “It’s both reassuring and I think also gratifying that there’s someone that has the level of confidence in the work that we’re doing and the confidence in the work of the institution moving forward.”
“What we were surprised at was the magnitude of the generosity,” Denniston said. “That’s the most heartening element of it, this vote of confidence in the future of Kenyon.”
By comparison, the largest gift to Ohio’s largest university, Ohio State, was a $100 million commitment in 2011 from Leslie H. Wexner, his wife, Abigail, and the Limited Brands Foundation.
Kenyon’s castle-like Ascension Hall also will be renovated, and facilities for the English Department will be expanded. Those and other projects announced Friday were in line with goals already established by Kenyon through its master and strategic planning processes.
The donation, Denniston said, sends an important message about investing in education.
“This is an example of why American education remains the best in the world,” he said. “Because of investments like this.”