Hamilton Launches $117 Million Campaign

Less than a year after becoming need-blind in admission, Hamilton College has announced “Bicentennial Initiatives,” a $117 million capital campaign whose primary objective is funding the new policy.

The campaign was launched publicly on Friday, Dec. 3, at the college’s annual 1812 Leadership Circle Weekend in New York City. More than 375 alumni, parents and friends of the college heard Campaign Chair Jeff Little announce that $70 million has already been committed to the effort, which concludes June 30, 2013, and spans the celebration of the Hamilton’s bicentennial on May 26, 2012.

Little, a 1971 Hamilton graduate who also serves as vice chair of the Board of Trustees, said the campaign’s top priority is $40 million in new endowment to fund the need-blind initiative in perpetuity. The college is also seeking to raise $35 million to construct three arts facilities and $30 million in unrestricted contributions to the Annual Fund. The balance of $12 million accounts for donor interests that match other college priorities.

Little said four pledges of $5 million each have already been made to the campaign’s priorities, a broad and unprecedented level of support for Hamilton when embarking on a new campaign.

“This campaign is shorter in duration and focused on fewer priorities than previous efforts because of the economy,” Little said. “But our needs are clear, our lead donors have responded generously and the time is right to ensure Hamilton’s leadership position in American higher education.”

“This is a bold step in this economy,” Little continued, “just as it was a daring move to become need-blind earlier this year. Hamilton has made a series of decisions that run counter to current trends, and they will position our college well to serve future students. Clearly, Hamilton is not standing still in the face of economic uncertainty. On the contrary, we see this campaign as an opportunity to assert our priorities.”

Little chaired the college’s two previous campaigns, each of which was two years longer in duration than the timeframe planned for Bicentennial Initiatives. The New Century Campaign raised $108 million from 1994 to 2001, and Excelsior raised $183 million during the seven-year period that concluded June 30, 2008.

“A college is fortunate indeed to have a person with such experience leading its campaign,” said Hamilton President Joan Hinde Stewart. “Jeff epitomizes the passion that Hamilton alumni feel for their college. I know we will meet our objectives because our case is strong and our friends are supportive.”

Speaking at the kickoff in New York, Stewart quoted from remarks delivered at Hamilton’s centennial by 1864 Hamilton graduate and U.S. statesman Elihu Root. She also cited the inaugural address in 1839 of Hamilton’s fifth president Simeon North, who used the metaphor of an oak tree to describe the college.

“So this evening,” Stewart said, “in the long shadow of the full-grown oak that is Hamilton College, as we bless our ancestors for their labors, we promise to continue nurturing that mighty tree, in the shade of whose wide arms generations of students and faculty have achieved fulfillment and greatness.”

“One hundred years from now,” Stewart added, “those who take our place will look back and recognize the surge of creativity we made possible with stunningly beautiful and functional arts facilities; they will look back with gratitude for the scholarships we provided so that they could attend a college of such distinction; and they will feel the same sense of belonging to ‘thy homestead glade and glen’,” a reference to the college’s alma mater Carissima.

Stewart’s remarks came at the end of a 45-minute multimedia presentation created, produced and performed by Associate Professor of Theatre Mark Cryer and loosely based on the college’s 200-year history as chronicled in a soon-to-be-published book by James L. Ferguson Professor of History Maurice Isserman. Cryer served as master of ceremonies and actor for the presentation, which also included a welcome from Little; performances by the College Hill Singers, senior Ileana Becerra and junior Kadahj Bennett; videos produced by independent film producer and 1999 Hamilton graduate David Gaynes; and speeches by Associate Professor of Art Rebecca Murtaugh and Stewart.


An Endowment to Support the Need-Blind Initiative

Hamilton’s decision to become need-blind was announced in March 2010, and the current first-year class was admitted under the new policy. Colleges that are need-blind make admission decisions without considering an applicant’s ability to pay their tuition and fees. It is believed that there are only about four dozen U.S. colleges and universities that are need-blind and that meet the full demonstrated need of each admitted student. Hamilton will continue its long-standing policy of meeting the full demonstrated need of every student it admits.

“We are taking this step now to make a bold statement about what we value as a college and to position Hamilton for the long term,” Chairman of the Board of Trustees A.G. Lafley said in March when the need-blind decision was announced. “Protecting our legacy as a school of opportunity is our highest priority.”

The college estimates it will cost at least $2 million annually in additional financial aid to support the new initiative, once it is fully phased in over four years. Income earned from the new $40 million endowment is intended to provide the resources to sustain the need-blind program in perpetuity.


Three New Arts Facilities

Hamilton also seeks funding to build three new arts facilities: a studio arts building, a theatre complex, and a teaching museum.

“If we are to educate Hamilton students to address poverty and sickness, and to tackle questions of technology, the economy and the environment,” Stewart said, “we must educate them to be fully human. And what the arts do is to humanize us.”

The studio arts space being envisioned includes large common areas for classes and exhibitions, smaller workshops and studios surrounding those areas, and a new interdisciplinary, digitally based Studio for Trans-media Arts and Related Studies (STARS). The new space will upgrade the offerings of the List Art Center, which was originally built in 1970 and renovated more than 15 years ago.

The new theatre facility will enable the department to expand its productions and provide students with vastly improved performance and teaching venues. Currently, the lack of adequate wing space and fly space in Minor Theater severely limits the plays that can be produced and the manner in which they are staged in this facility. In addition, cramped and ill-equipped scenery and costume shops make the teaching of technical theatre difficult and constrain the kinds of sets and costumes that can be constructed. The lack of a smaller teaching theatre makes the teaching of directing and other performance-based classes difficult.

A $10 million lead gift from 1950 Hamilton graduate Keith Wellin and his wife Wendy during the prior capital campaign is enabling Hamilton to begin construction on a new 30,000-square-foot museum next spring. Named in honor of Mr. Wellin’s parents, the Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art will be a creative “ teaching laboratory” where students are encouraged to ask questions, make connections to disciplines far beyond the arts, and develop visual literacy skills critical to life and learning in the 21st century.

Nearly every space in the Wellin Museum of Art is being designed as a place for teaching and learning. Close by the 6,200-square-foot gallery space, on the first floor, an Open Archive will provide ready access by students and faculty to a major portion of the Hamilton collection and will include a space where small groups can gather for discussion and presentation. On the second floor, a fully-equipped 48-seat classroom will be a place for small lectures and will provide a much-needed space for courses, particularly in the humanities, in which the study of film is a significant component. The so-called Closed Archive nearby will include two seminar tables and associated projection equipment. The second-floor lounge, overlooking the sculpture courtyard, is being conceived as a place where students can study or have one-on-one meetings with faculty or other students.


The Annual Fund

Most of Hamilton’s alumni and friends will participate in Bicentennial Initiatives through the college’s Annual Fund. Unrestricted gifts to the Annual Fund provide current income and immediate benefits that go directly to the operation of the college.

Little said that increased support for the Annual Fund -- $200,000 additional per year for the life of the campaign – will help fund the need-blind initiative until new endowments designated for that purpose are established and begin earning income. “We hope most alumni, parents and friends will participate in Bicentennial Initiatives through their support of the Annual Fund,” Little said.

“An endowment to secure our need-blind commitment will allow us to remain true to our heritage as a college of opportunity,” Stewart said. “Facilities for the arts, so central to a liberal arts education and so desperately needed at Hamilton, will help ensure our attractiveness to students of talent and imagination. Our third priority in this campaign, the Annual Fund, is quite simply the lifeblood of the college.”

“Hamilton continues to move forward aggressively, yet prudently, as we approach our third century,” said Little. “Bicentennial Initiatives is an important and necessary step in our college’s ability to serve future generations of talented and deserving students.”

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