$200 million gift marks largest in DePauw history

Thursday, February 8, 2024
As confetti showers down around them, DePauw University leaders celebrate the announcement Wednesday of a $200 million gift to the Bold and Gold 2027 strategic plan. Speakers who shared insight into the impact of the gift — the largest in school history — include (from left) DePauw Student Government President Paige Burgess, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Bridget Gurley, Board Chair Doug Smith, President Lori White, Vice President Dave Berque and Creative School Dean Marus Hayes.

Trumpeting the announcement as the largest gift in school history and one of the largest ever to an American university, on Wednesday DePauw University received a $200 million gift.

President Lori S. White announced that the gift will support the pillars of DePauw’s strategic plan, marking a sizable investment in the future of the university and liberal arts education.

Specifically, the university received $150 million from an anonymous donor and $50 million in supporting matches from other donors in support of the goals of DePauw’s strategic plan.

“We are humbled by these gifts and grateful for the confidence they demonstrate in our vision for DePauw,” White said. “Thanks to support at this scale, we can focus on ensuring that our core academic programs and offerings are extraordinary in every way. We know that our aspirations for DePauw — to be a new model for a liberal arts college for the 21st century — will require further philanthropic support and this gift — and those it will inspire — are essential to advancing the accomplishments of our incredible community of students, faculty, staff and alumni in the future.”

Before White and others got into some specifics of how the money will be allocated, she took a moment to draw the attention of the gathered crowd of students, alumni, faculty and staff to the sheer magnitude of the gift.

“This is DePauw’s largest gift and one of the largest gifts to an American university, especially one of DePauw’s size,” White said. “You may have heard of other large gifts to higher ed institutions — we are in some stellar company, demonstrating faith in the future of higher education and opportunities to come. We are humbled by these gifts and grateful for the confidence these gifts demonstrate in our collective vision for DePauw.”

Specifically, the gift will go toward DePauw’s Bold and Gold 2027 strategic plan. In the planning stages since late 2020 and announced in March 2022, Bold and Gold 2027 outlines a four-part vision of the future “marked by academic renewal, a rich and exemplary student experience, an unmistakable commitment to institutional equity and a commitment to financial and operational stewardship that ensures DePauw’s future as a flourishing university.”

Smiling as she makes the announcement, DePauw University President Lori White shares the news that the university recently received $200 million in gifts to its Bold & Gold 2027 strategic initiative. Of the committed funds, $150 million came from a single, anonymous source.

To this end, DePauw Board of Trustees Chair Doug Smith, class of 1985, introduced the celebration by calling it “a transformative day in DePauw’s history.”

Part of the university’s ongoing transformation is the creation of the three-school model, which was partially implemented at the beginning of the current academic year with the creation of DePauw’s new School of Business and Leadership, in addition to DePauw’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In the fall, these will be joined by the new Creative School, which will have a mission to “champion innovation and collaboration and be an inspiration for students of diverse talents to engage in the multidisciplinary exploration at the core of today’s technology, arts and media cultures.”

In total, $64 million of the funds raised will be dedicated to the Creative School.

“Talk about fortunate — clearly I joined this university at a fortuitous time,” Marcus Hayes, inaugural dean of the Creative School, joked. “Thank you to the donors for your generosity and your belief in our work.”

Hayes went on to elaborate on the vision he has and the university has for how the Creative School — which will replace DePauw’s 140-year-old School of Music — will serve students across the academic spectrum.

“These generous gifts ensure that the Creative School is propelled to success, driven by the passion of our students, faculty, staff and alumni to be a revolutionary concept in creative education,” Hayes said. “It will be an important place for everyone in the DePauw community to think, create and innovate. And of course, it will be an important place for makers of all types — artists, writers, musicians and actors — to hone their talents in new and exciting ways.

“As I said when I first joined DePauw, our students will be finding many interesting intersections between the disciplines housed in the Creative School and come to see how their studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as well as the School of Business and Leadership are related and interdependent,” Hayes added. “We want students to engage in a wide range of opportunities to ignite multi-disciplinary collaboration, creativity, imagination and creative problem solving, especially as we enter the age of artificial intelligence, virtual reality and extended reality.”

While the School of Business and Leadership was not expressly part of Wednesday’s announcement, Vice President for Academic Affairs Dave Berque noted in his comments that the current funds build upon $40 million the university already receive in support of the business school, bringing the total pledged to Bold and Gold 2027 to $240 million.

“I’ve seen all kinds of incredible moments in my three-plus decades at DePauw, and this one tops them all,” Berque said. “The impact of these gifts will be seen and felt on campus in many ways and for generations of students, faculty and staff. In the future, every alumnus will have been changed by the impact of these gifts.”

Not to be forgotten in the announcement was the university’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, which still lies at the core of a DePauw education.

“The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has a really strong tradition, engaging in innovative approaches and providing students with an outstanding liberal arts education,” Dean Bridget Gurley said. “Through our academic offerings, research and internship opportunities, study abroad and co-curricular programs, the college broadens and deepens every student’s understanding of the world around them.”

The funds will bolster initiatives across the institution and all four pillars of the strategic plan, supporting faculty, scholarships and financial aid, student and spiritual life and athletics. Three-quarters of the funds raised will support the university’s endowment.

“DePauw is a university that changes lives,” Smith said. “These generous gifts lay the foundation for a lasting legacy and will foster remarkable innovation and empower all members of the DePauw community for years to come. It is not just a financial investment, it is a profound commitment to the boundless potential of a DePauw education.”

Bringing the student experience into focus Student Government President Paige Burgess, who noted that 90 percent of DePauw Students receive scholarships or financial aid through the university.

“These gifts strengthen that support, moving the university toward the goal of ensuring that every talented student who wants to come to DePauw has the chance to do so,” Burgess said.

She also applauded the commitment to diversity and inclusion the gifts ensure.

“College campuses are one of the rare places left where people of diverse backgrounds and perspectives come together intentionally with open minds to wrestle with the issues facing a diverse world,” Burgess said.

The $150 million gift is the second at this scale that DePauw has received in its 187-year history. In 1999, DePauw received $128 million to support teaching and learning.

“DePauw has long had extraordinary support from donors – alumni and friends of the university who have given gifts large and small – who believe in its mission to produce leaders prepared for the careers and the challenges of the day and those not yet imagined,” White said. “We are honored that so many recognize the far-reaching, life-changing education DePauw offers and that they continue to invest in us.”

To read more about DePauw’s strategic plan, visit the Bold & Gold 2027 website at www.depauw.edu/about/president/strategicplan/.

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  • All tax-exempt money.

    No local, state, federal or property taxes paid by the recipient school.

    Also, the wealthy donor gifts are deductible. Even the investment income is tax exempt.

    What's wrong with this picture?

    -- Posted by direstraits on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 7:06 AM
  • direstraits: Would you prefer there be an incentive for the wealthy to good things and help others? Or, do you prefer more tax revenue so that politicians decide how all wealth is distributed?

    Personally, I like our system where individuals have an incentive to help our society in ways that you and I cannot imagine.

    -- Posted by rawinger on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 7:47 AM
  • It's all self-directed money, tax free.

    Meanwhile, taxed individuals support the necessities that provide the setting for their self-directed ideas.

    Roads, bridges, public schools, public transportation, federal, state, local government, national defense, all government programs.

    The list is extensive and expensive. (and unsustainable)

    Everyone knows it is too big.

    Not every entity is paying into this largess.

    It is so imbalanced and insane that college student loans are being paid for by taxpayers that didn't go to college!

    How is that fair?

    -- Posted by direstraits on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 10:56 AM
  • Dire, loans a totally different issue.

    As for taxing, no system is perfect but agree with rawinger.

    I pay a ton of taxes. My quarterly are unreal. That doesn't mean I am jealous of those who earn more that still pay but have some breaks available to them. I am also not jealous of those who may earn less and pay lower percentage.

    Sense logical sense is no longer relevant in our world plus there is hatred/ jealousy of those who have been successful,

    I don't see real fixes to the tax system that will have real impact.

    Not a fan of our most recent past president but did think his 2017 tax bill was very good. It is to expire in 25 (I think). Because of who was the President at the time, there is no way they will get renewed.

    -- Posted by beg on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 1:14 PM
  • 1) student loans are part of the equation if they are paid off by taxpayers that didn't incur them.

    2)they certainly brought ideas into society that didn't occur to me, rawinger.

    -- Posted by direstraits on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 5:00 PM
  • This is wonderful news for DePauw.

    -- Posted by Koios on Thu, Feb 8, 2024, at 6:10 PM
  • While wealth has been propagandized as a Republican/conservative concept, 9 of the 11 wealthiest 0.000001% of Americans are vocal leftists. Huge, anonymous donations to liberal arts institutions are intended to continue the indoctrination of young minds with leftist values, nothing more.

    Huge donations to religious organizations mean the same (opposite) thing.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 7:05 AM
  • A final thought re: gifts of this magnitude. The gift may be tax deductible to the donor and the school, but don't allow yourself to assume the donor didn't pay substantial taxes while earning his million$.

    Forgiving student loans, while not having to do anything with with the original complaint of direstraits is nothing more than a political gimmick to garner votes. I can think of many more segments of our society that deserve assistance more so than the holders of student debt.

    -- Posted by rawinger on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 7:58 AM
  • Here is some knowledge of things I wouldn't have imagined that comes from (arguably) one of the top universities in the world.


    -- Posted by direstraits on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 8:21 AM
  • Now DePauw can finally afford to build a parking garage and stop tearing down houses to make their parking lots.

    -- Posted by Ben Dover on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 10:00 AM
  • Agree with Ben Dover's comments. Finding a place to park on the DePauw campus streets is always a problem.

    Additionally, Depauw tearing down houses and replacing with parking lots does two things in the City of Greencastle: 1) Reduces local housing which we hear is needed and 2.) Reduces property taxes.

    -- Posted by Lookout on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 10:25 AM
  • Soros baby!!!!!

    -- Posted by beg on Fri, Feb 9, 2024, at 11:25 AM
  • All of the places where they’ve torn down houses that I see have become green spaces not parking lots

    -- Posted by dumpsterdiva61 on Sat, Feb 10, 2024, at 8:13 AM
  • The Big donations should be taxed.

    That revenue goes to vocational tech schools.

    Vocational students get the benefits too.

    -- Posted by direstraits on Mon, Feb 12, 2024, at 10:25 PM
  • It would be nice if Depauw could redirect some of that 2 million to the city of Greencastle they claim to have such a great relation with so the YMCA could finally have the swimming pool

    -- Posted by your mom on Tue, Feb 13, 2024, at 8:31 AM
  • Gifts and endowments aren't money to spend anyway you would like. That is a total gift usually given in certain increments over a period of time (5,10,15years, etc). Most gifts or endowments are allotted by the giver to be used for certain things. As stated above $64 million is allotted for the Creative Arts School. Those items are allotted for certain things can't be used for anything else. So while it would be nice to have a parking garage or a pool at the YMCA, I can almost guarantee that the money was not endowed for those purposes.

    -- Posted by heather.woodall10 on Tue, Feb 13, 2024, at 3:36 PM
  • In my days at DePauw, a particularly “generous” donor gifted the university millions, but only for an archway to be built over college avenue just north of seminary. Despite their best efforts, the school couldn’t get the arch approved due to regulations about traffic underneath it. That problem was solved by simply closing college avenue (and removing the parking spots I had used for years). I’m surprised they never added the arch.

    -- Posted by techphcy on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 9:18 AM
  • The idea that DePauw doesn't have access to discretionary funds is disinformation.

    I know they "chipped in" for the aerial firetruck at GCFD.

    They could do more if they wanted to.

    ESG, DEI etc. dominate projects and self-interest ideas.

    -- Posted by direstraits on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 12:41 PM
  • *

    DePauw is gonna buy the town!

    One piece of property at a time.


    -- Posted by dreadpirateroberts on Wed, Feb 14, 2024, at 8:01 PM
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