College receives million-dollar gift

The College on Feb. 14 announced it had received a $1 million anonymous gift, marking the largest anonymous donation in the College’s history and tying for the second-largest overall donation. The donation is one of many contributions and investments made in the last year that have pushed the College’s overall endowment to more than $16 million.

Transference of the donation was arranged through Wells Fargo Bank on the stipulation that $750,000 of the donation go to support scholarships for “underrepresented groups.” According to College President R. Barbara Gitenstein, the conditions of the donation do not specify what groups those might be.

Spending of the remaining $250,000 of the donation was unrestricted, and will likely go to the College’s endowment fund. Much of that money may still see its way to direct funding of students’ educations.

“The vast majority of our endowments go toward scholarships,” John Marcy, vice president for Development and Alumni Affairs, said.

The identity of the donor remains unknown to anyone on staff at the College, according to Gitenstein. While arrangement of the donation was known to staff members since the beginning of the Spring semester, College officials waited until Feb. 14 to announce it to the public after verifying its legitimacy, making it a rather hefty Valentine’s Day gift.

The donation drew national attention.

“This week, an anonymous donor gave The College of New Jersey a million-dollar gift,” Conan O’Brien said on the Feb. 15 broadcast of “Late Night with Conan O’Brien.” “The dean of the College said, ‘Great, now we can afford to move the College out of New Jersey.'”

Officials at the College had a slightly more upbeat assessment of the donation.

“I think people in general are pleased with the College and it’s being reflected in the endowments we’re receiving,” Marcy said.

Between 2006 and 2007 alone, the holdings of The College of New Jersey Foundation, Inc., the not-for-profit fundraising arm of the College, jumped from $8.3 million to nearly $16.4 million, according to figures provided by Peter Manetas, director of Development.

“We have worked very hard on educating our alumni and prospective donors on the importance of a healthy endowment,” Gitenstein said via e-mail. “The endowment has also increased tremendously from wise investment.”

While the endowment pool at the College has grown rapidly in recent years, it pales in comparison to holdings at other local colleges and universities.

The University of Delaware held a $1.2 billion endowment, Rutgers University held $549 million and Rowan University held $147 million as of 2007, according to figures from the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

Among colleges and universities ranked ahead of the College in U.S. News and World Report’s list of “America’s Best Colleges 2008” under the “Universities-Master’s (North)” category, Villanova University held $278 million, Providence University held $136 million, Fairfield University held $209 million and Loyola College in Maryland held $157 million.

“(The College’s endowment) is small when you look at comparable colleges and universities in the area. We’ve done a great job, but we’ve still got a way to go,” Marcy said.

College officials say the endowment fund will become increasingly essential to the sustainability of programs at the College in the face of decreased funding to higher education from the state and increased inflation.

“Endowments and other non-state sources will be more and more important in the years to come,” Gitenstein said. “Without these additional resources, we will not be able to maintain our edge of excellence.”

“The state has sort of methodically decreased its spending for colleges. So these donations are becoming more and more vital to our continued success,” Marcy said.

Marcy also stressed that current students should consider becoming donors after they’ve graduated.

“Both the past and the future of the College are tied to endowments like these,” Marcy said. “We hope students consider giving to their college once they’re alumni. The generosity of our alumni is a huge component to our continued success.”

The largest gift in the College’s history came from Tom and Carol Loser in 2006, when they donated $5 million to support the School of Nursing, Health and Exercise Science. Tom Loser also holds the record, now tied, for the second-largest donation in the College’s history after he donated $1 million for the naming of Loser Hall.