The University of Maryland, College Park, and the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation announced Wednesday the school’s largest-ever gift, more than $219 million, that will create more need-based financial aid, endowed chairs and more.
Leaders at the university and the state praised the gift as “transformative” for the university. The $219,486,000 gift is one of the largest ever for a public research institution.
“I am so proud of this historic and transformative investment in the future of the University of Maryland, and therefore the state of Maryland,” said Wallace Loh, president of the University of Maryland, College Park. “It will transform access and affordability to education in the state’s flagship university.”
The significance of the gift brought out leaders from across the state for the theatrical reveal of the donation. Most of the hundreds of people at the event at the Samuel Riggs IV Alumni Center did not know the extent of the gift before it was unveiled on a scroll unrolled across the stage.
The funds will be given to the University of Maryland College Park Foundation over the next decade. Some funds will be available immediately so the university can start programs while other funds will be endowed.
Maryland politicians, including Gov. Larry Hogan and House Speaker Michael Busch attended the event, and Senate Pres. Thomas V. “Mike” Miller sent in a video message.
“I really believe this is the most important day in the history of this university,” Hogan said.
Part of the gift will be used for a need-based financial aid fund. The Clark Foundation will match dollar-for-dollar contributions from the state and private donors to create the $100 million fund. The money the Clark Foundation uses for the match is separate from the $219 million gift.
“The state needs this kind of impact, and most important, our students deserve this kind of impact,” said Robert Caret, chancellor of the University System of Maryland. “This gift provides the resources that will allow us to expand on what we do and continue to expand on the impact that we have had as a campus and as a system.”
Speakers said they hoped the commitment to students from low- and moderate-income backgrounds would help more students follow A. James Clark’s journey from the University of Maryland to creating one of the largest construction companies in the world.
Busch shared stories of Clark, who died in 2015, hitchhiking and walking to the university, which he attended on a scholarship himself.
“Dad always said that education changes lives, and that was true in his own life,” said Courtney Clark Pastrick, chair of the Clark Foundation board. “The scholarship he received from Maryland was truly transformational. It not only made college possible for him, but the outstanding education that he received here at Maryland set him on his path to success.”
The university also hopes that the gift, one of the largest ever given to a public research university, encourages more giving to the university as it tries to catch up with other public universities.
When the University of Maryland joined the Big Ten Conference prior to the 2014-15 academic year, it was hundreds of millions of dollars behind its peers in terms of the size of the endowment. The university hopes to change the culture of giving at the university so it can begin to play catch-up.
“It’s a lead gift. Other people are going to follow and it will just blossom,” Loh said. “Remember, we are Johnny-come-latelies to this business. We didn’t start fundraising until about 25 years ago.”
In addition to the need-based aid, money from the gift will also fund a new engineering building, doctoral fellowships, and engineering scholarships for high-performing students, with a preference for in-state students.