02 May 2009

Class of 1989, Part 2

An Open Letter to My Hampshire College Classmates (Revisited)

Dear Class of 1989:

On April 25th, the New York Times ran an article titled "Anonymous Donor Gives Millions to Colleges." Unusually for a news article, the headline was both attention-getting and accurate, and if you read nothing else you came away knowing something inspiring and slightly mysterious had happened.

My first thought was: wow, I wish I could do that. I wish I had the means to give multiple large gifts - of $5 - $10 million dollars! - to organizations I think worthy, and the secondary means to enforce what must be a kind of gleeful anonymity on the part of the donor.

But I don't. And most of us don't have that kind of money, either. (If you do, and you've been hiding, now would be a great time to step forward.)

Yet it is precisely because I cannot make a multi-million dollar gift that I am writing you to ask you to join me in supporting Hampshire College, which was notably (!) absent from the list of worthy schools that received one of these anonymous donations. As alumni, our support for Hampshire matters. The biggest reason is the immediate impact of our dollars on everything from the development of new course curricula to supporting financial aid needs for current students. The equally important secondary reason is that our dollars make a statement to the outside world of foundations and other donors about how much we value Hampshire, the experience it gave us, and the importance of their support, too.

At the end of last year, after hearing that only 14% of the Class of 1989 contributes to Hampshire (a lower percentage than the more recent graduating classes), I did two things. I increased my own annual giving by 20%, to $1,200, and I wrote a letter for Hampshire to share with my class to encourage more gifts. I am gratified that some of you took me up on the challenge and made a contribution, too. Still, the need remains and, alas, the response rate was not enough to make the Class of 1989 competitive with our peers. So, I am asking again. I am asking you to think about Hampshire, what it meant to you in the big picture of your life, and the opportunity - actually, I would say the responsibility - we have to ensure its continued success.

Here is what I consider to be the reality: Hampshire College cannot wait for an anonymous donor to come along and drop several million dollars into its endowment. It's up to us, the folks who went there, to show the world that we care. I am committing here, in writing, to giving an additional 20% this year. What are you willing to do? As the logo says, "To know is not enough."

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At 9:34 PM, Blogger Scott said...

Sascha, I am still thinking over my donation. Yes, a lot of consternation over a $50 donation. Mostly I have been distracted and unexcited about the idea but you still have me thinking about it.

I remain hung up on the idea that Hampshire is an expensive baby boomer project that may have more negatives than positives in our post-New Deal, post social contract America. The baby boomers went to school at staid, utilitarian State schools and understandably thought a anti-"little boxes" college like Hampshire would be great for their kids. Today, I have a hard time seeing why to keep a special project like Hampshire afloat when even those staid State schools are out of the financial reach of most. As is often the case so much is dictated by the baby boomers. Tangent aside, I've mostly been distracted, I'll make a donation soon. Your girl is nearly as cute as my boy.


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