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Washington and Lee University

Washington and Lee University

Building A Great Faculty Takes More Than Salaries

Lenfest’s New $17M Gift Offers a Different Kind of Support

from The Bridge: Fall 2009 issue

Each year, the fight for the best faculty members grows tougher. Top colleges and universities compete for exactly the type of professors W&L is known for--superb teachers who always have time for students, and who also are masters in their fields.

Gerry Lenfest '53, '55L understood the competition was fierce when he made an extraordinary $33 million challenge gift to W&L in 2007. It was a direct injection to faculty salaries. But Lenfest knows that salaries by themselves will not win the battle for faculty. Accordingly, the Philadelphia philanthropist, whose generosity seems to know no bounds, has given W&L another weapon in its arsenal: $17 million for faculty sabbaticals and summer research.

This gift, combined with Lenfest's earlier challenge gift, represents a $50 million investment in Washington and Lee's faculty.

The $17 million is key to W&L's mandate to attract top talent and retain the professors already here. "As important as compensation is," explained Provost June Aprille, "building a great faculty takes more. Schools that retain great professors pay them competitively and also give them time and resources to be lifelong learners," Aprille pointed out. "We are always at risk of losing high-achieving faculty members to other institutions," she said. "We keep them here by giving them opportunities to develop as teachers and scholars."

Sabbaticals and summer grants are among those prized opportunities. Because of Lenfest, professors at W&L now will have more of them.

Lenfest's gift establishes two endowments. The H.F. Lenfest Endowment for Faculty Summer Support will fund more and larger grants to faculty members to support their scholarly work during the summer. Combined with other University funding, the Lenfest Endowment will fund at least 100 individual grants each year.

The second endowment, the H.F. Lenfest Endowment for Faculty Sabbaticals, when combined with other University resources, will fund year-long salaried sabbaticals for up to 10 faculty members each year.

These investments in individual faculty members will reap dividends across campus. "Gerry Lenfest's latest gift permits the University's faculty to remain current in their fields and make their own scholarly contributions, which will ultimately translate into much richer classroom experiences for our students," said President Kenneth P. Ruscio '76. "We are so grateful to Gerry for his generosity and his foresight. His support of Washington and Lee is simply remarkable."

To hear Gerry Lenfest speak about his support, visit