During weekend events welcoming donors and other guests from across the Connecticut College community, the Board of Trustees formally approved the public launch of the most ambitious campaign in the College’s history, a $300 million campaign to be called “Defy Boundaries.”
The boldness of the campaign, President Katherine Bergeron said, signals a new era for Conn and builds on its significant momentum during the last six years. Noting that Conn’s founding was itself a story of breaking boundaries—of “courageous women challenging norms to create a college where there once was none”—she said with this campaign the College “will move beyond the status quo of undergraduate education, beyond how the liberal arts typically operate in the 21st century, and invest in the transformative power of a Conn education as never before.”
The Oct. 22 event marking the launch included a number of announcements suggesting how much progress the campaign has already made in that direction. Bergeron and campaign co-chairs Brad Brown P’12 ’15 ’20, Pamela D. Zilly ’75, and Rob Hale ’88 P’20 announced the following:
As the campaign has quietly grown over recent years, it has already attracted gifts from more than 12,000 donors, including alumni, students, faculty, staff and parents. Contributions thus far total more than $205 million.
Five members of the campaign leadership group have dramatically increased their gifts to the College, boosting their combined contributions to the campaign by more than 50%—from the $12 million they had previously contributed to a total of $19 million.
The campaign has already raised more than $70 million for the College’s endowment.
Rob and Karen Hale have pledged $10 million of their gifts to create the Hale Scholarship Challenge, through which they will match one-to-one—up to a total of $10 million dollars—all gifts of financial aid of $250,000 or more to boost the College’s financial aid endowment by another $20 million during the campaign.
A new Defy Boundaries Legacy Challenge aims to inspire gifts of lasting impact to the College and its endowment. The challenge recently received its first gift, a bequest of $10 million from John Zeiler ’74, marking one of the largest bequest gifts in the College’s history.
In his remarks to the guests gathered to celebrate the launch, Board Chair Debo P. Adegbile ’91 recalled the transformative experience Conn provided him.
“Conn changed my life,” he said. “It made me dream bigger and encouraged me to think more carefully and with a broader perspective. It helped me to believe in the importance of daring, and to connect who I am to what I can do.”
He added, “[This campaign] is for Conn’s students of today, for the generations past to whom we owe our finest efforts, and for the generations ahead that our work and our commitment will serve.”
Speaking about the generations ahead, Hale—who with his wife Karen earlier this year made the largest gift ever to the College, a total of $50 million—announced the Hale Scholarship Challenge, and said that Conn “showed me there were no boundaries if I set my mind to it. The faculty, the coaches, my friends—they lifted me up and pointed to a whole new world—beyond the boundaries I thought were real.”
Defy Boundaries aims to invest in core aspects of the College’s work as a liberal arts leader, including academics, financial aid, scholarship, career education, sustainability, the arts, equity and inclusion, global education, and athletics.
“Conn broke boundaries upon its founding more than 100 years ago,” Zilly said in her remarks.
“Since that time, Conn has pursued a mission that matters—to instill in our students a passion for intellectual inquiry and a commitment to integrity. … This campaign is about resources, but also stepping forward; it is about financial strength, but also the strength of our convictions; it is about our ideals, but also action.”
When Brown addressed the attendees, he mentioned that the campaign is personal to him, because he and his wife, Jane, are proud parents of three Conn graduates, so he saw firsthand how a Conn education can change lives.
“Conn is what it pledges to be—a superb liberal arts college where students grow as individuals, learn to think for themselves, and find the mentorship and support of faculty, staff and friends that change their lives,” Brown said. “Because of how Conn has affected our children’s lives, we recognize how critically important it is that this campaign achieves its ambitious goal.”