During commencement exercises today, Washington and Lee University announced that it has received a gift of $100 million, the largest in the 258-year-old school's history and one of the largest ever received by a liberal arts college.
"This act of generosity, vision and loyalty ensures that Washington and Lee will fulfill its historic mission to educate leaders who possess integrity and a commitment to service," said W&L President Kenneth P. Ruscio. (Watch a video of President Ruscio discussing the impact of the gift.)
Of the total sum, $85 million will increase existing funds for need-based aid at the university. "We want top students who can benefit from one of the country's best, most personal liberal arts educations," said Ruscio. "This gift means that financial circumstances need not prevent such students from choosing W&L."
Ruscio said that the donor requests that he remain unidentified for the present in order to keep the focus on the students graduating today, the program the gift creates and the values it reinforces. The university is known for its strong liberal arts and professional programs.
"Washington and Lee has always embraced the responsibility to prepare students to lead lives of consequence," Ruscio explained. "This challenges us and inspires us to reach even higher." The contribution was made to endow a new program focusing on leadership and integrity. "It provides an unprecedented set of opportunities for a university," said Ruscio. "The theme could not be more timely for Washington and Lee and for society."
"The gift sends a strong message about the value of a liberal arts education in today's world," said Ruscio. "To succeed, students need not only technical and analytical skills but also the capacity to reason critically and creatively, and to act ethically at all times."
Further, said Ruscio, "at a time when the cost of college is a concern for many, we want to be sure that capable students can attend the university regardless of their financial ability."
Ruscio, an alumnus of the W&L class of 1976, has written widely on leadership and trust. A strong advocate for the liberal arts, he is currently a member of a Teagle Foundation/American Council of Learned Societies task force on faculty in liberal arts colleges.
In the last two months, W&L has received not one but two of the largest gifts ever to a liberal arts college. In April, it received $33 million from another donor, to increase and maintain faculty salaries. Both gifts undergird the university's new strategic plan, which W&L completed in May. Philip W. Norwood, rector of the Board of Trustees and a member of the class of 1969, says that "two of the plan's signature components call for attracting and supporting exceptional students and outstanding faculty. Both of these remarkable gifts will help us attain those objectives." Norwood is president and CEO of Faison Enterprises Inc., in Charlotte, N.C.
"The core strength of Washington and Lee is its people," said Ruscio. "We are grateful that we can face our future prepared for the challenges it will bring for the University and its graduates."
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Since 1749, Washington and Lee University has produced superb scholars and principled leaders with a commitment to civility, service and honor. Housing one of the nation's top liberal arts colleges and one of its finest law schools, and supported by a student-run honor system, W&L offers a unique blend of arts and sciences, law, journalism and commerce. It is located in Lexington, Va., between the Allegheny and Blue Ridge Mountains, just south of the Shenandoah Valley.