The College Donor Digest

Be Part of the Solution

May 17, 2019 | Emily Koons Jae

For those of us invested in the future of America's colleges and universities, the 2019 news cycle has caused some sleepless nights. College campuses ought to be sanctuaries for free inquiry and discourse, yet we are witnessing a steady corrosion of these essential qualities of the academy.

Perhaps now more than ever, college donors have the opportunity to act as a force for change. As Daniel Akst wrote in an opinion editorial published earlier this week in the Los Angeles Times, “only one group has the leverage to begin lifting the siege: donors.”

His piece, “Don’t just give money to your college of choice, donate some free speech backbone,” urges college donors to demand more from our institutions of higher learning.

We wholeheartedly agree. Through intelligent, targeted gifts, donors have the power to inspire a revitalization of our nation’s colleges and universities. The Fund for Academic Renewal’s (FAR) mission is to help donors make transformative gifts that reflect their vision and values—gifts that help institutions live up to their highest ideals.

General gifts to a university’s annual fund end up supporting the bad along with the good, the trivial along with the profound. By directing their philanthropy to programs or institutions that uphold the principles of academic excellence and intellectual freedom, and withholding their support when institutions veer off course, donors can play a critical role in restoring integrity to American higher education.

Business leader Angelo Pizzagalli’s recent gift to establish a Chair of Free Enterprise at the University of Vermont is a prime example of this idea in action. Through his gift, Mr. Pizzagalli has ensured that generations of Vermont students will be exposed to viewpoint diversity in their study of economics. By his account, FAR made the process “easy, transparent, and seamless.”

It is time to step up, not out. Colleges and universities are too important to our nation’s future to abandon. FAR’s fundamental aim is to support the commitment of thoughtful, active donors like Mr. Pizzagalli to fortifying academic quality and intellectual integrity.


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The Fund for Academic Renewal is a program of the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a not-for-profit, tax-exempt organization as defined by Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. All contributions to FAR are fully tax-deductible to the maximum extent provided by law.