Benton Donates $25 M Challenge Grant

Chris Nickels

In the largest one-time cash donation in the University’s history, Trustee Dan Benton ’80 recently contributed $25 million to Colgate’s capital campaign stimulating almost 20 additional million-dollar-plus donations from other alumni, parents and supporters. Benton’s contribution was featured in The Wall Street Journal’s philanthropy column, “Giving Back,” on March 16.

Benton’s contribution marked the beginning of a $400 million capital campaign, which President Chopp formally announced at the beginning of March. The initiative, entitled “Passion for the Climb: The Campaign for Colgate,” is meant to bolster the school’s $657 million endowment. The raised funds will allow Colgate to complete the goals laid out in the Strategic Plan, which include enhancing the quality of students’ education, furthering University research, improving financial aid and implementing the residential education program.

Benton is the chair and CEO of Andor Capital Management, which is one of the world’s largest hedge fund advisors. He graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa from Colgate and earned his M.B.A. from Harvard. He has been a trustee since 2001. He supports a multiple nonprofit groups and has donated generously to Colgate.

“Colgate receives the majority of my support,” Benton said. “First, because I feel I can make a significant impact, and second, because I want to be associated with the institution as it transforms itself under President Chopp.”

The $25 million gift was a challenge grant: in order to receive it, the school needed to raise the same amount in matching funds within a certain time period. Between last August and March, the University managed to meet the challenge, raising a total of $28.85 million.

Benton has given to Colgate before. In 2002, for the purpose of encouraging alumni donations to the annual fund, he pledged $1 million on the condition that alumni participation reached 52 percent. After that goal was met with time to spare, he offered a supplementary $500,000 if participation reached 54 percent. By the end of the year, a record 14,200 Colgate alumni, or 55 percent, had donated to the university.

“Each of these gifts is an endorsement of Colgate and its direction,” Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Campaign Director Murray Decock said. “We are incredibly fortunate to have such passionate and generous alums.”

The University is almost halfway towards achieving its goal, having raised $180 million already. Once the goal of $400 million is reached, the money will be channeled into four main pursuits: $119 million toward liberal arts and academic excellence, $87.5 million toward financial aid, $30 million toward residential education and the campus community and $163.5 million toward the endowment and the annual fund.

Colgate has laid out some considerable objectives. For example, the campaign seeks to fund a dozen new faculty chairs. The commitment comes with a price of $2 million per chair, but would help recruit top students and attract talented professional scholars.

President Chopp praised Benton’s donation.

“This generous gift will be instrumental as we strengthen the bond between Colgate’s liberal arts traditions and the skills and opportunities of twenty-first-century curriculum, focused on increased connections between faculty members and students, local and global community building opportunities, and more hands-on research and creative opportunities,” Chopp said. “Dan is an invaluable member of the Colgate community and, in many ways, embodies the heart and soul of a liberal arts education.”