The board of trustees of Bard College has presented the liberal arts school with a $120 million donation, nearly doubling the school's endowment, the New York Times reports. Bard will apply $100 million of the gift, believed to be one of the largest ever made to a small liberal arts college, to its endowment, which currently stands at $115 million.
"It is still not a huge endowment, but now it is respectable," said trustee Leon Levy, who contributed $50 million of the gift. Levy, chairman of Oppenheimer Mutual Funds, recalled that when he joined Bard's board of trustees in 1982, the college had virtually no endowment and significant debt. According to board treasurer Richard B. Fisher, the enhanced endowment will save Bard officials from having to scramble each year to raise about $10 million to balance the school's budget. The remaining $20 million of the gift will be used to build new facilities, including dormitories and a Frank Gehry-designed performing arts center on the Bard campus in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York.
The gift to Bard, which has about 1,200 undergraduates and 200 graduate students, comes at a time when many college officials are concerned that the sluggish economy and outpouring of donations to September 11 relief and recovery efforts will result in fewer gifts to their institutions.
"When real tragedy happens, the clock stops and there is a window of opportunity for people to think about what they really value," said Leon Botstein, who has been president of Bard for more than twenty-five years. "People jettison frivolity and redefine normalcy. We thought that now was the time to see how important this place was to our trustees. We got a resounding answer that went well beyond our expectations."