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The Power of the Gift

Answering frequently asked questions about endowing scholarships at Wofford College.

Who establishes endowed scholarships at Wofford?
Why do they give?
How much does it take?

You may be surprised by the answers to these and other frequently asked questions about establishing an endowed scholarship at Wofford College.

Wofford parents Karen and Bob Buterbaugh of Hilton Head, S.C., established a new endowed scholarship at Wofford College…

  • because they love volleyball, and their daughter, Liz ’16, is a middle blocker for the Terriers.
  • because they admire the gifts and support of others, such as Jerry Richardson ’59, who has endowed scholarships, provided gifts to fund buildings and served the college in leadership positions. 
  • to set the same type of example for future generations.
  • to be a part of Wofford’s long-term growth and impact on the world.

Yes, they gave… and because they gave to the endowment, their gift will keep giving as long as Wofford College offers transformative educational experiences to students.

“We appreciate the opportunity to be a part of a bigger picture. As parents and donors, we think that’s impor-tant to consider,” says Karen Buterbaugh. “Wofford graduates have such a love of this place. It’s obvious in the way that they want to give back. I hope these younger graduates will do the same one day. Giving back is so important.”

To make “giving back” easier, Wofford development officers always are eager to talk with those interested in establishing a named, endowed scholarship. Here are the answers to some frequently asked questions that also may help.

How important are endowed scholarships to Wofford College?
More than 85 percent of the Wofford student body receives some type of financial support (including loans, scholarships, grants and work study); 51 percent receive need-based financial aid. The majority of Wofford students would be unable to attend Wofford without financial support.

“Endowed scholarships form the foundation of the college’s efforts to recruit the country’s best and brightest high school students,” says Calhoun Kennedy ’89, executive director of development. “The Wofford experience—including opportunities for faculty-student mentoring, undergraduate research, foreign study and competitive athletics—attracts thousands of prospective students each year. Students who stand out above the rest find themselves sought after by lots of top colleges and universities. Offering them generous financial aid and scholarship packages makes all the difference.”

Who establishes endowed scholarships at Wofford?
Individuals, young alumni, people who want to honor someone, parents (such as the Buterbaughs), older alumni making their estate plans, businesses, groups—anyone or any group can start an endowed scholarship fund at Wofford College.

Susan Gray, the college’s director of donor relations, shares great giving stories. She loves to tell people about Benny Waldrop, who started an endowed scholarship at the college as a birthday gift to his daughter, Dr. Lori Waldrop Barwick ’94, or Dr. Don Castillo, professor emeritus of chemistry at Wofford, who established an endowed scholarship with the proceeds from corporate consulting work he did outside of the college. His former students have added to the fund through the years so that it now provides even greater benefits to students. Gray also is quick to give examples of younger alumni who have started scholarships—Dorothy Acee Thomas ’96, for example, or the collective group of alumni, many of whom are fresh out of college, who are establishing a new scholarship fund as a result of the first Black Alumni Summit.

“As soon as I was in a position to start thinking about how to give, I started thinking about an endowed scholarship at Wofford,” says Thomas. “People think that you have to have a million dollars to start an endowed scholarship fund, but that’s not true. We started one with much less. It was a way for us to honor our parents, who had done so much for us, pay it forward and start something that would last and that we could build as a family.”

She says she never tires of seeing the balance of the scholarship grow or of hearing about the impact that it is having at the college, but she’s adamant about making her annual gift to the college first.

“I would never give to my scholarship without giving to the general fund first,” says Thomas. “Wofford does not exist without that. If there’s any left over, then we can use it to impact the future of the college and what’s important to us through our endowed scholarship.”

Thomas was an attorney who practiced until she had children, William (8) and Anna (5). Now she spends much of her time doing volunteer work for the Southwest Advocacy Group and SWAG Family Resource Center, and recently has helped establish a full-service medical and dental clinic for underserved people in Gainesville, Fla.

“It’s important to me that our children understand what it means to give,” says Thomas. “When I made the decision to leave my legal career, I knew I that I needed to spend my time doing something that’s meaningful to me. Our kids see that example, and it has inspired them to be actively involved as well.”

Why do people establish endowed scholarships?
David Ehmen ’18, a left-handed pitcher on the Terrier baseball team, holds the Georgia Alumni Endowed Scholarship. The fund was established in 2011 and grows each year from the proceeds of the annual Wofford Invitational Golf Tournament in Atlanta. The Atlanta Golf Committee established the scholarship both to help a student-athlete on the Wofford baseball team and to honor the late Russell King ’56 and Walt Sessoms ’56, Wofford classmates, Terrier baseball teammates, trustees, model alumni and co-founders of the Atlanta Golf Committee. 

Ed Wile ’73, Wofford trustee and an original member of the Atlanta Golf Committee, believes there could be no greater way to honor their memory.

“Because of Walt and Russell, everyone on our committee feels a part of this noble project,” says Wile. “These guys gave so much heart to the college. They’re watching from the sky box, and honoring them is a blessing for us.”

Ehmen also believes their generosity is a blessing to him.

“Wofford is such a great fit for me. I love the community, the coaches, my teammates, and I know how fortunate I am to be able to study and compete in a place like Wofford,” he says. “I went to the scholarship dinner last semester, and I sat with Mrs. King. It was really special to hear stories of Mr. King and Mr. Sessoms and make that connection as a current student-athlete from Georgia. I’m just so grateful for all that Mrs. King, Mrs. Sessoms and the Atlanta Golf Committee have done for me and the college’s baseball program.”

Honoring people... helping people... supporting education... that’s why people establish endowed scholarships.

Are endowed scholarships permanent?
Endowed scholarships are as permanent as Wofford College itself. The college still awards scholarships established in the early 1900s, and classes as early as 1932 have endowed scholarships.

Not only are endowed scholarships permanent, they’re also “transformative,” says Wofford Trustee Stanley Porter ’89, who recently with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Parker Porter, established a scholarship at Wofford.

“Gifts to the endowment offset the money from the operating budget that needs to support curriculum, faculty and staff, and facilities,” says Porter. “Endowed scholarships keep us from burdening students with more debt and allow the college to do more at the next level.”

The Porters worked on their scholarship for five years, and according to Porter, the college’s endowment performance, thanks to the work of the Investment Advisory Committee, accelerated their timetable. 

May I restrict and name the scholarship?
Once they made the decision to commit their resources toward creating an endowed fund at Wofford, the Porters started planning the gift’s designation.

“We chose to focus on helping Wofford improve academic standards and the talent of the student body while moving into a broader demographic. Our scholarship goes to students underrepresented in higher education,” says Porter.

Not only do endowed scholarships allow people to give in perpetuity, they also allow donors to direct their funds to improving Wofford College in an area important to them.

“If you think the fine arts are important, then you can establish a scholarship that supports a student-artist. If you want a more competitive athletics program, then you can endow a scholarship for a student-athlete,” says Thomas. 

Endowed scholarships are a great way to align your wishes with Wofford College’s mission.Who chooses the recipients, and will I meet them?

The Scholarship Selection Committee, appointed by the president of the college, reviews scholarships and recipients and allocates endowed scholarships according to the wishes expressed in the scholarship fund agreement signed by the donor.

Each spring the college holds a Student-Donor Recognition evening and invites both scholarship donors and student recipients. 

Lauren Kirby ’15 was one of the speakers at last year’s event. Kirby is an ideal example of the type of student who benefits from endowed scholarships at Wofford. An English major from Sherman, Texas, who completed the teacher education program, she now is attending the University of Arkansas studying for a master’s degree in communications. She was a student-athlete on the college’s women’s basketball team earning academic all-district honors. She was a Young Life leader at Spartanburg High School and a member of Zeta Tau Alpha sorority. 

Here’s how she closed her speech: “I know I speak for all the students in this room when I say that my future would be completely different if I hadn’t come to Wofford, and I wouldn’t have been able to come without a scholarship. And isn’t that what people crave in life, to make a difference? Well, you have. Your generosity has changed lives, and for that I am forever grateful.”

Yes, you can meet your student recipient, and you’ll be glad you did!

How does the endowment work?
Once a donor creates a scholarship by making a gift to Wofford, that gift is invested with the college’s endowment. As the original scholarship principal appreciates and dividends accrue, the endowed scholarship fund builds. When the fund reaches the threshold level, a portion is used to provide scholarship support for a Wofford student. The principal remains in the fund so the endowment continues to increase, which in turn makes an even greater impact on Wofford’s ability to offer scholarships.

According to Gray, the Abney Foundation offers an ideal example. “The Abney Foundation has given us a total of $3,500,000. Currently the scholarship has a market value of $6,596,098. It is amazing how their gifts and a good investment policy at Wofford have made it grow!”

How much does it take to establish an endowed scholarship?
The college offers two opportunities to establish an endowed scholarship: 

  • A minimum of $50,000, payable over five years, establishes a named, permanently endowed scholarship.
  • A commitment of $25,000, payable over five years, coupled with a documented estate/insurance plan for an additional $100,000, establishes a named, permanently endowed scholarship. This option offers the donor the opportunity to establish the scholarship with a lower initial gift when it is combined with a generous planned gift.

The sky is the limit on the upper end: the greater the fund size, the greater the benefit to deserving students. Recently Wofford has awarded 5 percent of the market value of each endowed fund, and each fund has grown by a similar percentage annually.

How do I get started?
Contact the college’s development office to talk with a major gifts officer. The office will welcome your call. 

Wofford College Office of Development
429 North Church Street
Spartanburg, S.C. 29303

by Jo Ann Mitchell Brasington ‘89