From Campus to Career: Behind This College's Largest Gift Ever

Wellesley College has an endowment of around $1.8 billion and raises more than $10 million in unrestricted support annually, with more than half of its alumnae making gifts. Most buildings on campus bear the names of women, which in addition to revealing the unique environment that women's colleges offer, also tells an important story of philanthropy. Wellesley graduates include the likes of Madeleine Albright, Hillary Clinton, Diane Sawyer, and astronaut Pamela Melroy. 

Clearly, Wellesley is doing a lot of things right as a small liberal arts school, and now comes news of a groundbreaking $50 million gift by two anonymous Wellesley graduates. One alumna graduated in the 1960s and the other in the 1980s. The gift supports the school's College to Career Initiative, which will tap the school's alumnae network, "widely considered to be the world's most powerful women's network... and reimagine how women are introduced to a world of opportunity during their four years on campus and over the course of their lives."

Now, if you've been reading Inside Philanthropy lately, you'll know that there's a lot of interest right now among higher ed funders of all kinds in strengthening the pathways that lead from campuses to careers. While much of this funding focuses on getting low-income and minority college kids into college, career-wise, even college grads from name-brand institutions like Wellesley often need a boost making the right connections. Of course, there are also some key industries dominated by men—tech and finance come to mind—so special efforts to open doors for young women could be super-useful in such areas. 

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The $50 million gift will kick off Wellesley's $500 million fundraising campaign, the largest campaign ever undertaken by a women's college. As Wellesley College President H. Kim Bottomly puts it, "In making this gift, these alumnae are expressing... their belief in Wellesley's mission and in the imperative of investing in women and women's education as the surest way to improve the world." 

We couldn't help but notice that this historic gift and fundraising push comes at a time when philanthropy in general has been increasingly focused on narrowing the gender gap and improving outcomes for girls and women. We've written before about that push, particularly around STEM and entrepreneurship. 

Prior to this $50 million gift, the previous largest donation to Wellesley was a $25 million gift in 2000 from hedge fund founder and alumna Lulu Chow Wang and her husband Anthony.

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