McPherson College Gets $500 Million Commitment

McPherson College has received the largest single commitment to a small liberal arts college in the United States.

According to the school, the anonymous double-match estate commitment is worth $500 million and over time will allow the college to reimagine and reinvent its campus while it pursues initiatives that enhance the student experience. McPherson College offers more than 30 undergraduate degree programs to its more than 800 students, representing 33 states and seven countries.

McPherson College President Michael Schneider announced the commitment at a press conference at the Kansas Leadership Center in Wichita. Also speaking were United States Senator Jerry Moran and Giving Pledge Signatory and California philanthropist Melanie Lundquist—representing the anonymous donor.

As part of the “double-match” estate gift, the anonymous donor will contribute two dollars for every dollar given by others, up to $500 million to the college’s endowment. The anonymous donor can opt to pay over time, or the total is due in full upon their death.  The college has until June 30, 2023 to meet this target, and is well on its way having raised $130 million to date. If the goal of raising $250 million is met, the donor will contribute $500 million, resulting in a total of $750 million into McPherson College’s endowment.

“This is an unprecedented show of support not just for McPherson College but also for America’s small, liberal arts colleges,” said Schneider. “I am indescribably grateful to our anonymous donor for giving McPherson College the resources to implement our expansive strategic plan and truly create the student-first campus of the future. We must reimagine the campus, just like we’ve reimagined the workplace in the last two years, and do it without burdening our students with more debt. I am also grateful to our faculty, staff, Board of Trustees, and my cabinet, whose encouragement and guidance are a source of inspiration.” Schneider graduated from McPherson College with honors in 1996 and became president in 2009.

The $500 million will support the college’s Community by Design strategic plan, including four initiatives:

  • Continuation of the pioneering Student Debt Project, which provides matching funds for students who hold jobs while attending school;
  • East McPherson, the new campus master plan including the 55,000 square foot Campus Commons student life center, which breaks ground tomorrow, the Boiler House recreation and social space, and the Holman Center for Athletics;
  • The Kansas Center for Rural & Community Health Science;
  • The National Center for the Future of Engineering, Design & Mobility.

“McPherson College is important to the success of our state, and these generous donations will not only help the college continue to grow, but it will also greatly benefit the McPherson community,” said U.S. Senator Jerry Moran (Kan.). “When donors are willing to invest so much, it proves the college is doing something right, and I appreciate their understanding of how vital institutions like this are to our local communities and the nation. McPherson College has seen tremendous growth over the past decade, in large part because of the investments made in both its students and the community. Under the leadership of President Schneider, McPherson College identifies the community’s needs and prepares its students to step into these roles immediately following graduation. I look forward to joining President Schneider to announce the fulfillment of this $500 million match and to seeing the bright future McPherson College has ahead.”

The historic announcement was in part catalyzed by a $25 million multi-year commitment in May from philanthropists Melanie and Richard Lundquist, which was the Lundquists’ first significant donation outside of their California home and their first gift in higher education. At the press conference, Melanie Lundquist announced an additional $25 million gift to McPherson College, bringing their total commitment to $50 million.  Richard Lundquist joined McPherson College’s Board of Trustees earlier this year.

“It is a huge honor for my husband Richard and me to represent the donor and make an additional investment in a truly special place, McPherson College,” said Melanie Lundquist. “Small liberal arts colleges like McPherson create nurturing ecosystems that foster creativity and innovation. Meaningful philanthropy can help solidify a small college’s future. We are excited to double down on the magic happening on the Plains. We encourage other philanthropists to follow our lead and take advantage of the 2:1 match – there’s no greater return on investment in higher education.”

Since 2018, McPherson College has operated the Student Debt Project, which provides matching funds for students who hold jobs while attending McPherson College. McPherson College has been able to buck the tide of student debt and play a small part in giving students a less stressful future, with 30% of all students in the Student Debt Project projecting zero debt at graduation.

The new campus master plan is a rare opportunity to reimagine an established college and create a campus of the future. At the heart of it, the Campus Commons will serve as the center of student life on campus, providing a state-of-the-art event venue, service hub and place to grab a bite. It was intentionally designed for the way students live and study on a 21st century campus. The Boiler House is an imaginative reuse of McPherson’s existing utility building to create an entirely new campus gathering point that provides indoor and outdoor space to socialize and collaborate, and the Holman Center for Athletics—an expansion of the existing sports facility—will give McPherson’s teams a modernized venue.

With the Center for Rural & Community Health, McPherson College is responding to extreme demand for healthcare professionals, especially in rural areas of Kansas. This program started in 2019 with a partnership between McPherson College and other community health organizations, and today’s announcement will allow the college to significantly expand its offerings, allow students to engage with a much broader spectrum of health fields, and will support scholarships to make this program accessible to more students.

McPherson College’s Automotive Restoration Technology degree program has received national acclaim and earned the support of car collectors, including icon Jay Leno, and its students hope to compete at one of the automotive world’s signature events, the Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach, Calif. next year. The program has inspired the college’s future growth—exploring areas like engineering, design and mobility. With this donation, McPherson College plans a new automotive collection facility with climate-controlled areas to store, display and maintain classic cars, and give students state-of-the-art equipment to enhance auto restoration programming.

“The gifts announced today will transform students’ lives. McPherson College provides me with an unparalleled learning environment where I can cultivate my skill set and build a solid foundation for my future career. Because of my time at McPherson, I know I will make a difference in the world,” said senior Victoria Bruno, who spoke at today’s press conference.

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McPherson College Photo