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$1M gift to bolster Earlham's commitment to affordability for first-generation students

March 07, 2017

Earlham College will use funds from a previously-announced $1 million gift to support scholarships for first-generation students.

"Earlham is committed to making a rewarding liberal arts education possible regardless of students' background or ability to pay,” says Jonathan Stroud, vice president of enrollment and communications. “This gift will support our ability to fulfill this mission while attracting talented students to campus who can further enhance the vitality of our community.”

First-generation students have historically been underrepresented at some of the nation’s top private liberal arts colleges, but not at Earlham. With its commitment to diversity, Earlham is experiencing significant growth in the number of academically talented first-generation students who enroll and thrive at the College.  This commitment is reflected not only in student recruitment and financial aid initiatives but in support programs designed to assist first-generation students in making a positive transition to an academically challenging college like Earlham.

For example, Earlham’s Library Immersion Fellows Team (LIFT) program helps students to develop sophisticated research skills, and the Ronald E. McNair Post-baccalaureate Achievement Program is designed to prepare students who have traditionally been underrepresented in graduate studies for the journey leading to the Ph.D.

“We witness every day the abilities and contributions of our first-generation college students,” Stroud says. “These students only needed an opportunity to demonstrate their exciting potential.”

This latest gift, which was announced in January, came in the form of a grant from Our Giving Tree, a donor-advised account at the Chicago Community Foundation.

“It was a wonderful surprise to receive this gift,” says Avis Stewart, vice president for institutional advancement and community relations. “Major gifts like this are usually the result of long-term relationships with donors we know very well, so we are accustomed to knowing when the gifts are coming.

“Every once in a while, though, we get gifts we were not expecting,” he says. “This gift is humbling because it reminds us that the positive impact of Earlham is felt way beyond campus and that there are many generous philanthropists who see the value of the education we offer and who want to support our students.”

The gift is the second major gift in the last year to support first-generation college students. This fall, Earlham announced a  gift from Catherine Lemann to support the expansion of the LIFT program. LIFT participants receive a laptop computer, and access to a faculty mentor and customized coursework that prepares students for the rigors of earning a college degree. This year’s participants will also study in Montreal on scholarship as part of a May Term.

RELATED: Earlham embraces ‘innovative’ solutions for students with high financial need, Forbes says

College officials say gifts like this anonymous one provide a boost to Earlham’s mission, and remind the staff that the College’s influence is spread far and wide. The Our Giving Tree Scholarship Fund will provide the College with an invaluable resource to help meet the demonstrated financial need of future Earlhamites.

“We are deeply grateful for this wonderfully generous, quite unexpected gift," says President David Dawson. “As we prepare for the spring, I hope this gift will inspire us to redouble our own energy to advance Earlham’s mission — to provide a liberal arts education of the highest quality and to educate socially responsible leaders who are prepared to improve the world.”

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Earlham College, a national liberal arts college located in Richmond, Indiana, is a "College That Changes Lives." We expect our students to be fully present: to think rigorously, value directness and genuineness, and actively seek insights from differing perspectives. The values we practice at Earlham are rooted in centuries of Quaker tradition, but they also constitute the ideal toolkit for contemporary success. Earlham is one of only 40 national liberal arts colleges ranked among U.S. News and World Reports' "Great Schools at a Great Price."

Brian Zimmerman is director of media relations at Earlham College. He can be reached at 765-983-1256 and zimmebr@earlham.edu.

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