When Jerry Richardson ’59 gave $150 million to Wofford in February — one of the largest ever single gifts to a U.S. college — he also inspired others to give.
One alumnus, wishing to remain anonymous, gave $5 million in support of the vision laid out by the college’s trustees and administration, and to express his appreciation for “all the good Mr. Richardson has done.”
Richardson’s most recent $150 million gift to the endowment is designated to support four areas of the college: the renovation and repair of Richardson-named buildings, a boost to the minimum compensation on campus to $15 per hour, need-based scholarships and need-based experiential learning opportunities, something that’s a hot topic in higher education today and aligns perfectly with Wofford’s mission and core values.
The anonymous donor simply asked the college to use the gift so that it could further Wofford’s reputation as a national liberal arts college and provide a complete experience for students.
Two million dollars of that gift is being used to match donations being made to support student experiences. Trustee Howard Coker ’85 also made a gift to support gift matching initiatives.
“I was given an opportunity at Wofford that I’ve been able to leverage, and we have an obligation to make Wofford better,” says Coker, CEO of Sonoco. “While we have a responsibility to provide a higher value experience for today’s students, there’s an understanding that they will, too.”
Each of the gifts supporting student experiences involved donors closely examining student needs to enhance their Wofford experience.
Susu and George Dean Johnson Jr., entrepreneur, business leader and founder of The Johnson Group, recently established the Corry W. Oakes III Endowed Interim Support Fund in honor of Corry Oakes ’89, Johnson’s business partner and immediate past chairman of the Wofford College Board of Trustees. The award supports opportunities for international travel, internships and other experiences during the Interim for students with financial need.
“My wife and I wanted to do something to honor Corry and the person he is, including his tremendous leadership on the college’s board of trustees,” says Johnson. “We also wanted to support students who are following in his footsteps.”
The Maria and Steven Mungo World Experience Fund supports international travel opportunities for Wofford students who have significant financial need. The college’s tuition and financial aid often can be used toward study abroad experiences, but students can incur additional costs when traveling and visiting sites outside of their programs.
The Mungo World Experience Fund supports students studying abroad, and there is an opportunity for recipients to also apply for “roaming funds” to experience other parts of a region or continent where they are studying.
“We never want the cost of airfare (or a train ticket) to be an obstacle,” says Steven Mungo ’81, a member of Wofford’s Board of Trustees.
Craig Melvin’ ’01, also a member of the board of trustees, has a lone regret from his time at Wofford — he didn’t study abroad. In part, he wanted to be a part of all that was happening on campus, but cost also was a factor. Melvin, a co-host for NBC’s “Today” show and a news anchor for NBC News and MSNBC, has heard many stories of college students fighting hard to earn internships before turning opportunities down because they can’t afford to relocate for a summer.
He and his wife, Lindsay Czarniak, a national sports reporter, established the Lindsay and Craig Melvin Fund to support experiential learning. They saw their gift as more than a donation to the institution. They reflected on the human impact.
“Lindsay and I didn’t look at it as a gift to the college,” Melvin says. “I viewed it as a gift for a kid who looks like me and has a similar background. That changes the aperture of how we view giving. We wanted to create opportunities for students.”
According to Wofford President Nayef Samhat, offering opportunities for experiential learning is one of the many things Wofford does well. It helps students build critical thinking and communications skills, allows for deeper understanding of academic pursuits and inspires lifelong learning.
“Wofford is fortunate to have so many loyal supporters who value international travel and study, internships, research experiences, community-based learning and entrepreneurial ventures,” says Samhat. “Our students are prepared to succeed in a global, interconnected world, because of these types of experiences and the generosity of the people who make these experiences possible.”