Case Study:

How do I find a faculty friend?

When making a gift to higher education, there are few better places to start than with a personal connection to a current faculty member. An on-campus ally will be the best guide to the principles, procedures, and politics of academic life. If you do not already have a connection on campus, there are several ways to find one. You might attend university events, research faculty profiles on the college’s website, or contact a trusted organization. In the following case study, the donors were introduced to professors by a mutual friend, and the relationship laid the foundation for a flourishing academic program.  

The Tocqueville Program at Furman University

After retiring to North Carolina, Virginia “Ginny” and Sandy MacNeil decided to devote their time and energy to improving higher education through philanthropy. They sought to encourage academic dialogue, leadership, and character development, and it was important to the MacNeils that their gift have a significant impact on students.

Furman University Professors Benjamin Storey and Aristide Tessitore shared the same goals of promoting academic excellence and providing leadership training for their students. After a trusted, mutual acquaintance connected the MacNeils with these professors, the MacNeils inspired other donors to contribute, thereby maximizing the effectiveness of the founding gift. Their philanthropy and the insight of their academic partners helped to create a new academic program at Furman. Named for the great student of democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, the Tocqueville Program is an intellectual community dedicated to examining the moral and philosophical questions at the heart of political life.

The program began as a course enriched by an endowed lecture series. It has grown substantially over the past decade. The Tocqueville Program now offers a series of courses, a first-year engaged living program, a sophomore-senior fellowship program, a Friday afternoon reading group, a postdoctoral fellowship, and an undergraduate summer placement program. Its excellent curriculum and extracurricular activities help students engage with the best arguments behind diverse and competing points of view. The program is currently directed by Professors Benjamin Storey and Jenna Silber Storey. For more information, please visit

The MacNeils and other donors regularly attend program events and hear firsthand from students and parents what a difference the program is making. Ginny MacNeil noted, “It’s been very rewarding to be involved with something that is so meaningful to many students, and they’ve just taken off with it. Their success is our reward.”

The Tocqueville Program’s exemplary success speaks to the importance of knowing and clearly communicating your vision for a gift as well as choosing the right partners who share your goals and will work diligently to implement your vision on campus.

FAR can help you:
  • Identify a distinguished faculty member to design and lead an academic program or activity.
  • Facilitate the establishment of interdisciplinary programs.
  • Maximize the impact of your giving with a matching gift strategy.

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.