With New Gift, Karen Hale P’20 and Rob ’88 Contribute $50 Million to Connecticut College
Connecticut College receives the largest gift in its history.
Relive highlights of the April 28 campus event.
Students, faculty and staff gathered on the glorious expanse of Tempel Green this afternoon as President Katherine Bergeron and trustee leadership joined to announce the largest philanthropic gift in the College’s history: a gift of $30 million from Karen Hale P’20 and Rob ’88 that, in combination with their prior gift of $20 million, invests $50 million in financial aid, athletics, career and an expansive 21st-century liberal arts education.
“As our country emerges from the trials of this pandemic, Karen and Rob have exercised another multimillion dollar vote of confidence for the future of the liberal arts, sending a message about the transformative power of a Connecticut College education,” said Bergeron. “Their gifts are super-charging the momentum of a College whose spirit of creativity, resiliency and determination to lead have been on vivid display across this challenging year. We are incredibly moved and inspired by their commitment.”
Speaking in front of The Dune to a large campus crowd gathered to mark the historic occasion, Bergeron was joined by Board of Trustees Chair DeFred (Fritz) G. Folts III ’82 and former Chair Pamela D. Zilly ’75, who is also co-chairing the College’s campaign along with Rob Hale and Bradford T. Brown P’12 ’15 ’20.
Vice President for Advancement Kim Verstandig noted, “This great College is strong because of its community, and today we celebrate together a moment of extraordinary confidence and conviction.” During their remarks, Folts examined the history-making quality of the Hales’ extraordinary gift in the life of the College, and Zilly noted the inspiration this great gift provides to all alumni to help support the College and carry forward its momentum.
A slideshow, highlight reel and full recording of the event—which also featured music by Prose & Conns and the Carly Family Band, some of the students’ favorite food trucks (La Mesa, Munchies, Luigi’s Wood Fired Pizza Risto, and Ben & Jerry's), a photo booth and other celebratory activities—will be available in the coming days.
With the Hales’ latest gift, the campaign has now raised more than $170 million in the still-silent phase of a comprehensive campaign launched in 2017, including gifts from nearly 12,000 donors representing students, faculty, staff, alumni, parents, foundations and friends.
Bergeron noted that the Hales’ newest gift prioritizes three areas: $10 million for financial aid, $10 million for athletics and $10 million for immediate improvements to campus infrastructure. This gift builds on their original 2015 contribution of $20 million—previously, the largest gift in the College’s history—that set the stage for the current campaign. In total, their combined campaign gift of $50 million has invested $5 million in the College’s nationally recognized career program, and provides $10 million for infrastructure, $15 million for athletics and a total of $20 million for financial aid endowment.
In a special video presented at the event, the Hales shared why they are so invested in the College. Rob said, “This College changed my life, and Karen and I believe deeply in its mission, in its innovations as a liberal arts educator and the leadership skills it builds in students. More than ever, our society needs the kinds of graduates that this College helps develop, and we are honored to help do our part to stand with them. We hope others will join us.”
The Hales’ new gift will impact three areas of importance made vividly clear by the pandemic: financial aid, athletics and campus infrastructure. The College has a longstanding commitment to meet 100 percent of every accepted student’s demonstrated financial need, which has grown with the pandemic’s severe economic impacts.
Meanwhile, athletics programs at the College, as everywhere else, have been markedly curtailed over the past year, costing student-athletes entire seasons with reductions in competition, practice opportunities and other sacrifices in their already brief time as NCAA competitors. The gift will support the goals and objectives of the College’s recent Action Plan for Competitive Success, which seeks to elevate the student-athlete experience through investments in coaching, facilities and team support.
Finally, the Hales decided it was critical to invest in campus infrastructure after a year in which students showed how much they desired the residential learning experience that is at the heart of the education the College offers. Thanks to the students’ commitment to safety protocols, the College has maintained one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country for the entire academic year.
“At a time of historic disruption, this gift allows us to do much more to support the education of our most talented students; build the strength of Camel athletics; and invest in the campus itself, which shapes the experience of every student every day,” said Bergeron. “Karen and Rob’s generosity is an expression of confidence and possibility in our students, who are rising from the depths of this pandemic to build a better world.”
The Hales’ gift in 2015 precipitated an era of accelerated progress at Connecticut College, a period that includes the launch of:
- Connections, the College’s new curriculum that reinvents the liberal arts for the 21st century.
- The Academic Resource Center, the most highly endowed center of its kind in the country.
- The Agnes Gund ’60 Dialogue Project, one of the nation’s most comprehensive programs devoted to intergroup understanding.
- The Walter Commons for Global Study and Engagement, a new resource allowing every student to integrate global learning into their College experience.
- The Hale Center for Career Development, enabling every student to build robust career preparation into their pathways to life beyond college.
These initiatives are all part of the College’s 10-year strategic plan, Building on Strength, adopted in 2016, which expands the College’s educational mission and capacity to help every student reach their potential and contribute to the greater good.
“When we think of this College, we think of all the outstanding students we have gotten to know, the friendships of our own that have lasted across our lives and the powerful influence these graduates have on those around them,” said Robert Hale. “We’re excited for today’s students and what they are going to make possible for themselves and others.”