Connecticut College Magazine · Spring 2009


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Giving back

Annual Fund donors are giving where and when the need is greatest

by Barbara Nagy and Rachel Harrington

The past year has been tough.

Gail Rosenberg Ludvigson ´64 knows that firsthand: she was a vice president at Bear Stearns in California when it failed last spring and was acquired by JPMorgan Chase. She kept her job, but sees the financial crisis rippling through the economy, pushing people out of jobs, threatening nest eggs and making college-bound students wonder if they should downscale their aspirations.

So Ludvigson nearly doubled her gift to the College this year, to $8,600.

“The need is greater, and we have to give what we can,” she says. The gift also honors her upcoming 45th Reunion.
Ludvigson is not as unusual as you might think. Many of the College´s supporters are making it a priority this year to keep giving back — and to give whatever they can.

“I think the recession has made people more aware that Connecticut College is important to them,” says Ellen Anderson, director of annual giving programs. For some, giving what they can means giving less. For others it means giving as much as last year, or more.

“Some people tell us they are giving more because they know others are giving less,” Anderson says. “It´s humbling to see that people are so committed to the College and the education we offer.”

Annual Fund gifts cover current-year expenses, which is particularly important in years like this. The recession puts pressure on the College´s finances in many ways — including an increase in requests for financial aid.
As of Jan. 23, the Annual Fund raised $2.6 million since the start of the current fiscal year, July 1, 2008. That´s down 15 percent from a year ago. But it´s better than some of the College´s peers, and Anderson is guardedly optimistic about the outlook for the year — in large part because of the commitment she sees among the College´s supporters.

Nate Borgelt ´07, a financial consultant at AXA Advisors in New York, pledged $200, up from last year´s gift of $20.07 (a popular gift level when members of that class graduated). He knows that nonprofits and schools have been hit hard as their supporters cut back. He also wanted to be a member of the new Synergy Society, which recognizes leadership giving by younger alumni.

“Moving into the financial world, especially at this time, has given me a new light for what we need to do for institutions like Conn,” Borgelt says. “It doesn´t hurt to give a little more, and individually I want to give back for the success Conn College gave me.”

Like Ludvigson, Daniel B. Hirschhorn ´79, chief executive officer of American Trading and Production Corp. in Baltimore, increased his gift this year, to $25,000, because of his upcoming reunion. “I´ve always felt that it´s important to support the organizations that have been important to me,” he says. “I got an excellent education.” Reunion is the time to focus a little more on that and make an extra effort to give back, Hirschhorn says.

Carolyn H. Mitchell ´59 is also giving more — in part because of her uncertainty about how the economy will affect her investments.

“I wanted to give as much as I could now, in case my investments don´t live up to my hopes,” says Mitchell, a retired educational consultant who lives in Palo Alto, Calif. Her passion for teaching and learning was ignited by Connecticut College professors who encouraged her to go to Harvard for a master´s.

She´s celebrating her 50th Reunion this year and wanted to make a special gift to the College. Her husband also felt it was important that her gift be as generous as the gift he made to his alma mater for his 50th. So she increased her Annual Fund support — from $1,000 last year to $10,000 this year for financial aid.

“I wanted to make my check as large as I could because I know that helping a current student is an excellent investment,” Mitchell says. “I was fortunate to graduate debt free, not an option for many parents and students today.”
Richard L. Wechsler ´75 of Hastings-on-Hudson, N.Y., knows the pain of the recession because friends and family members have lost their jobs. But his direct marketing business, Lockard & Wechsler, continues to grow, and Wechsler wanted to continue giving. He has always believed in philanthropy and gives to charities and institutions that really matter to him.

“When times are tough, it´s more important for those who are able to step up, to dig a little deeper and give a little more,” he says. “In that sense, the economy affected my decision to give more.” He increased his gift by a third this year.

Wechsler found his studies at Connecticut College to be challenging, but made it through with the help of his professors. “The College stuck with me. I would not be as fortunate today had I not gone to Conn,” he says. “By giving to the Annual Fund this year and every year, I hope that Conn will continue to provide a similar opportunity to current students.”

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