Credit: Vlastimil via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)Goshen College, a liberal arts school in Indiana, recently received approximately $3 million via an estate gift from the late Milo Albrecht, who passed away earlier this year at 94. The funds come in the form of farmland and will support scholarships for nursing students.
There are a couple of unique elements behind this story, including the fact that Albrecht attended Goshen for just three semesters some seventy years ago. Digging into exactly how Albrecht and Goshen stayed in sync over the years, despite Albrecht's short stint on campus, should be instructive for campus fundraisers.
Born in Morton, Illinois in 1921, Albrecht studied algebra and geometry in 1939 and 1940 at Goshen before being called home to work on his family farm. Albrecht continued to work on the farm until the late 1940s when he traveled to Poland for six months with Mennonite Central Committee and worked as a farm machinery instructor. Back stateside, Albrecht started his own farm and worked alongside his brother. He also began investing in the stock market when he was in his late 20s, and lived a modest lifestyle.
As his cousin and financial representative Herb Roth, explains, "Every morning he had his devotionals, ate his breakfast and then he would read the Wall Street Journal with his calculator next to him, to see how his stocks were doing. Milo lived a simple life. He didn’t buy new cars and didn’t buy a lot of clothes."
Around the time that Albrecht returned from Poland, he started his philanthropic relationship with Goshen College, which by the way is associated with the Mennonite Church. The liberal arts college is home to both The Mennonite Quarterly Review and the Mennonite Historical Library, one of the world’s most comprehensive collections related to Anabaptist and Mennonite history.
In another campus gift I wrote about, retired college professor Kevin O'Kane gifted the value of his retirement plan to Providence College, a Catholic college that he did not attend, but one that he believed shared his convictions. Similar forces seem to be at work here for Albrecht and his strong relationship with the Mennonite tradition. This starts to explain why Goshen might leave a lasting impression on someone like Albrecht, though he was only on campus for a short time and quite some time ago at that.
In fact, in addition to supporting Goshen, he also had a track-record of donating to the Mennonite Church, as well anonymously to individuals. In 2014, Albrecht gave $1.98 million worth of stocks to Goshen College. Like O'Kane, Albrecht also never married or had children.
Another question one might ask is why Albrecht keyed in on nursing in his estate gift. Well, part of the story is gratitude. Albrecht resided in Apostolic Christian Restmor in Morton and appreciated the nursing care he received. Gratitude, of course, is a recurring theme in philanthropy. It's also worth emphasizing how inter-related Albrecht's interests and commitments were, which fits with someone who seems to have lived such a modest and devoted lifestyle.
A case like Milo Albrecht is a good reminder that big philanthropic splashes can come from unexpected sources. Sure you've got your wealthy and well-known wall street titans, and their more under the radar (but equally wealthy) peers. But those with more modest means can also have a big impact, as this gift proves.