College of Wooster announces five gifts totaling $40 million
Biggest fund-raising day ever completes construction funding of new science center
WOOSTER, Ohio – In a series of dramatic moments during a dinner for the board of trustees last night, The College of Wooster announced contributions totaling $40 million from four individual donors and one Cincinnati-based foundation, the largest single fund-raising day in the college’s history. More than half of that amount, $23 million, is earmarked for construction of Wooster’s new integrated life sciences center. The college now has commitments for the entire $40 million construction cost of the new facility, a year before its scheduled ground breaking.
At the close of the dinner, President Grant Cornwell announced that the integrated life sciences center will be named the Ruth Williams Hall of Life Science to honor Ruth and Morris Williams, whose $15 million gift to support the sciences at Wooster, announced in October 2013, got fund-raising for the project off to a fast, dramatic start.
But the evening did not end there, as Morris Williams then approached the podium with an announcement of his own – an announcement that came as a surprise to everyone in the room, including his wife. His voice choked with emotion, Williams spoke of how much he and Ruth both loved Wooster. He said that despite the fact that neither of them had been science majors, they had been happy to support the new life sciences facility because it was important to the college, but now he thought they should do something that was closer to Ruth’s heart. So he announced that he and Ruth would give $2 million to endow scholarships for music majors, $2 million to endow scholarships for education students, and $1 million to endow a scholarship in honor of outgoing president Grant Cornwell and his wife, Peg.
Williams’ announcement capped the most extraordinary evening in Wooster’s fund-raising history, during the course of which three other alumni and their families, plus the Austin E. Knowlton Foundation of Cincinnati, unveiled gifts totaling $35 million.
William A. Longbrake ’65, chair of the college’s board of trustees, has made a total commitment of $15 million: $5 million toward construction of the science center; $5 million for APEX, the college’s center for student academic and career advising, planning and experiential learning; and $5 million for other purposes, including the college’s annual fund and his fiftieth class reunion fund. Longbrake, the retired vice chairman of Washington Mutual, has been a member of Wooster’s board of trustees for 27 years, and chair since 2014.
The Austin E. Knowlton Foundation of Cincinnati, Ohio, will provide an $8 million grant to support construction of the science center. Austin E. Knowlton was the owner and chairman of the Knowlton Construction Company of Bellefontaine, Ohio. Under his leadership, the company was responsible for more than 600 major construction projects throughout Ohio and the Midwest, including school buildings, hospitals, libraries, and post offices. Knowlton earned his bachelor’s degree in architectural engineering from The Ohio State University in 1931, and the university’s Austin E. Knowlton School of Architecture is named in his honor.
Stanley C. Gault ’48 announced a gift of $7 million. Five million dollars will be earmarked for the science center, while $2 million will create a new endowed professorship, the Flo Kurtz Gault Endowed Chair in English, to honor his late wife, who also graduated from Wooster, with a bachelor’s degree in English. Gault, the former CEO of Rubbermaid and Goodyear, joined Wooster’s board of trustees in 1972 and was named chair in 1987, a position he held until his retirement from the board in 2000, at which time he was elected chairman emeritus.
Richard J. Bell ’63, one of two trustee members of the planning committee for the new integrated life sciences center, and his wife, Toni F. Clark, will give $5 million toward the completion of that project. Bell is president of Potomac Development Corporation, which develops and manages real estate in the Washington, D.C. area. He has been a member of the college’s board of trustees since 2008.
“This is truly an historic day for The College of Wooster,” Cornwell said. “Thanks to the extraordinary commitments made by Bill Longbrake, Stan Gault, Dick Bell, and the board of the Knowlton Foundation, the college is in the almost unheard of position of having secured commitments for every dollar of this project’s construction cost before a single shovel of earth is moved. We are so proud and grateful that they share the vision for the future of science education that this facility embodies.”
In November 2014, Wooster announced the selection of EYP as project architects for the Ruth Williams Hall of Life Science and began the planning and design process. The project will involve razing Mateer Hall, the current biology building, and replacing it with an entirely new structure that will be connected to the Severance Chemistry building to create an integrated life sciences complex.
Demolition of Mateer will begin in June 2016, and the new facility will open in September 2018. The college continues to seek financial support for the innovative, interdisciplinary educational programming that will take place there, including new endowed professorships and research funds in the life sciences.
The College of Wooster is America’s premier college for mentored undergraduate research. Wooster offers an excellent, comprehensive liberal arts education, culminating in a rigorous senior project, in which each student works one-on-one with a faculty mentor to conceive, organize and complete a significant research project on a topic of the student’s own choosing. Through this distinctive program, every Wooster student develops abilities valued by employers and graduate schools alike: independent judgment, analytical ability, creativity, project-management and time-management skills, and strong written and oral communication skills. Founded in 1866, the college enrolls approximately 2,000 students.