And few people understand that any better than Ed Wile ’73.
After his freshman season in 1969, Wile decided he financially would not be able to return to Wofford. He was introduced to Vera Parsons, a Spartanburg resident who provided scholarship support to Wofford and other educational institutions. Parsons made it possible for Wile to continue his Wofford career.
“That changed my whole life,” says Wile, a retired investment consultant. “Without her I couldn’t have come back. And there are hundreds of students just like me.”
Wile never forgot Parsons, or her act of kindness. Years later, he established an endowed scholarship in her honor. A matching gift from the estate of Homozel Mickel Daniel allowed Wile to establish another endowed scholarship, this one honoring former Wofford football coach Jack Peterson.
Gifts such as Parsons’ and Wile’s have been an integral part of the success of Wofford’s student-athletes and the athletics program as a whole, especially in the 25 years of the NCAA Division I era.
“Our model doesn’t work without them,” says Johnson. “Nobody at the FCS level is self-sufficient, but if you do it right you can bring efficiency and brand identity to the institution.”
Wofford doesn’t receive state funding, it doesn’t make near the money on ticket sales that Power 5 schools make, nor does it get the same type of lucrative television contracts and associated sponsorships.
Guarantees — football and basketball games against Power 5 schools that come with a big payday — inject money into the program’s operating budget.
“We would play them anyway because they’re important from a recruiting standpoint and for the fans,” Johnson says. “But that money goes straight into the operating budget.”
According to Johnson, when the COVID-19 pandemic wiped out this season’s football game against South Carolina, it cost Wofford about $350,000 to $400,000.
“A lot of institutions lost money, and they can’t make it up,” he says. “We’re going to feel the pain, too, but because the institution is in a strong position and is so well run, it won’t be as much pain as some of the others.”
The growth of the athletics department endowment has played a critical role for the Terriers. It allows Wofford to attract players who might go elsewhere without those scholarship dollars. From just a shade under $1 million at the dawn of the Division I era, it has steadily grown to its present value of more than $45 million.
Harold Chandler ’71, a former CEO of Milliken & Co. and Wofford’s starting quarterback in 1969 and 1970, said it was important not to place any additional financial burdens on the college as it stepped up to Division I. He and others, including Wile, launched an ambitious plan to endow the entire athletics program.
“People got excited about it,” Chandler says. “They would endow scholarships in the name of a parent or as a memorial to a family member. This completely reinforced that Wofford was willing to compete athletically at the same level that it competed academically.”
The endowment has grown steadily through the years, including the year of the pandemic.
“In trying times like now, the endowment gives us a good base of scholarship dollars to go out and recruit top-notch student-athletes to represent Wofford,” says Luke Feisal ’14, Wofford’s associate athletics director for development. “The contributions are greater each year, and we invest them through the Board of Trustees Investment Advisory Committee, so they continue to grow.”
Endowed scholarships also connect generations of Terriers — donors to student-athletes, alumni to coaches, recruits to the people who started the first athletics fundraising efforts.
CONNECTING THROUGH THE ENDOWMENT
- A minimum of $50,000, payable over up to 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% of the market value of each endowed fund, and each fund has grown by a similar percentage annually.
- A $50,000 endowment produces $2,250.
- A $100,000 endowment produces $4,500.
- A $250,000 endowment produces $11,250.
- A $500,000 endowment produces $22,500.
- A $750,000 endowment produces $33,750.
- A $1,000,000 endowment produces $45,000.