Endowed scholarship challenge is launched

Myron Taylor Hall
Jason Koski/University Photography
The Cornell seal embedded in the pavement of Myron Taylor Hall.

When it comes to upholding Cornell University’s commitment to financial aid for “any person … any study,” Cornellians are always ready for a challenge, according to Fred Van Sickle, vice president for the Division of Alumni Affairs and Development (AAD).

“They consistently make all the difference for the university,” he said.

At the start of this year, Cornell launched a fundraising challenge aimed at creating up to 100 new endowed scholarships for aid-eligible undergraduates, professional school students and graduate students on the Ithaca campus and at Cornell Tech. The initiative is expected to provide an estimated $25 million in endowed scholarship funds.

Under the terms of the challenge, gifts of $200,000 or more (payable within five years) will be matched on a 1-to-4 basis. A $200,000 gift, for example, will be increased by $50,000 in matching funds. (A $5 million unrestricted bequest from Craig Voorhees ’49 – a benefactor of scholarships in his lifetime – made the match possible.)

Over the past three decades, similar challenges have inspired the generosity of university supporters, including an initiative that boosted financial aid for international students.

Barbara Knuth, senior vice provost and dean of the Graduate School, emphasized the instant and long-lasting effects of the endowed scholarship challenge: Matching funds will provide immediate financial aid while the pool of endowed funds grows as a permanent source of support.

“It will enable Cornell to live true in perpetuity to our founder’s vision of enabling qualified students to attend Cornell, no matter their family’s financial circumstances,” she said.

Knuth added that the campaign will also help strengthen Cornell’s endowment-per-student ratio (an important measure of an institution’s resources) and help the university attract students who are as outstanding as they are varied.

“Our latest undergraduate admissions cycle produced the largest number of applications in the university’s history,” Knuth said. “But applications to our peers are growing as well, and many of our peers have much higher endowment-to-student ratios than Cornell. We rely on the generosity of our endowed scholarship donors to help Cornell remain competitive and enroll a qualified, diverse student community.”

To date, 30 donors have made gift commitments of nearly $6 million, and almost $1.5 million in challenge funds have been awarded.

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John Carberry