2019 saw Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts plot a course through financial troubles and leadership transitions. This week, a $60 million fundraising effort to keep the college open and independent got a big boost when Paula H. and James S. Crown – a Hampshire graduate himself – committed $5 million. WAMC spoke with Ed Wingenbach, president of the experimental private liberal arts institution, about the college’s largest single donation.
WINGENBACH: It's a really important moment for Hampshire at this point in our history to, to receive a, what is unquestionably a vote of confidence in our vision of the future and our value as an institution, both for our students and for higher education broadly. And you know, it's particularly meaningful coming from someone like Jim and Paula Crown, and someone like Jim, who knows higher education well. He's been the chairman of the board of trustees at the University of Chicago, you know, for the previous decade. You know, there's people who understand the landscape of higher education, the place of Hampshire College within that, and are willing to put their, to invest their resources to help us continue to be successful and innovative. So it's, it's really an exciting moment.
WAMC: Now, how does this tie into your ongoing fundraising efforts that started last January?
Right. So we are in the middle of a $60 million five year campaign that is intended to support our operational work with students at the college as we rebuild our enrollment, over the next several years. This $5 million gift is part of that campaign. So it certainly adds tremendously to our progress. We are now at roughly $20 million in a $60 million campaign. So we're a third of the way through the campaign and a third of the way to our goal, which is great. What's wonderful about this gift, is that it is a challenge gift. So Jim Crown came to Hampshire College in the in the fall of 1971. He was in the second class. And he was part of that group of students who came to Hampshire College who really helped build the place, right. I mean, Hampshire College, was and continues to be this experimental place where students work alongside faculty and staff in thinking about what's next. And so there's this whole group of students from 1970 through ‘75 or so who really feel like they, along with the faculty and administrators who were here, created Hampshire College. And what Jim is asking his colleagues in those five classes to do is to step up along with him. So he's given this $5 million that's a challenge to his classmates to also raise $5 million. And so ultimately, that will, that this gift will end up being $10 million of that $60 million campaign.
Hampshire College is known for its activism and for a very vocal student body. It's been a place where conversations about investments in South Africa and Israel have been very loud and dynamic conversations. Given Mr. Crown’s involvement with General Dynamics and JP Morgan has there been any conversation among the student body about that kind of money coming in to the college?
There has not been, and I, you know, I would say that, I think it's important that Hampshire College, you know, while we have deep commitments to social justice, and we have a mission that involves, you know, making the world better, we also need to be a place that is welcoming to people from a wide variety of political points of view. Now, that said, I also will point out that, you know, that Jim Crown was appointed to various boards by President Barack Obama. He's active in progressive politics, right? We're not talking about, you know, we're not talking about a family of people who are out of line with the values of Hampshire College, I don't think.
So this is obviously a big fish to net. What's next in the fundraising strategy, given that $5 million gifts are not going to be the most common kind of contribution to the school?
Well, you know, we are hoping to have more multimillion dollar gifts. We had, you know, our campaign committee that runs our campaign, amongst the four of them, managed to produce significant amounts of money to get us launched. We are expecting in the next, you know, week or so to announce another multimillion dollar gift. So we are- And we have other prospects with whom we have relationships that we think are really promising. So, there's two ways to answer that question. One is, this isn't going to be the only multimillion dollar gift that Hampshire College gets during this campaign. And secondly, the people who care deeply about Hampshire both within our community of people who attended Hampshire and graduated from Hampshire, but also people far beyond Hampshire College, who looked to us as a model for what undergraduate liberal arts education can be, and look to us to continue to innovate and invent new ways to think about undergraduate education, those people will and have continued to support us and contribute to our campaign. And I think it helps a great deal to have large investments to reassure people who are making smaller contributions that Hampshire College is a stable, sustainable place with a bright future.