Bennington College awarded $12 million gift

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BENNINGTON — A 1991 graduate of Bennington College has made a $12 million gift to the school, bringing the college's largest-ever capital campaign two-thirds of the way to its $150 million goal. The gift will support visual arts programming at the college.

"We're very excited about this gift," said Paige Bartels, senior vice president for strategy, philanthropy and partnerships at the college. "What's powerful about this gift is it's both an investment in the endowment and a significant gift to the endowment, and is giving us the resources to invest in our students, faculty and staff today."

The gift will be provided over five years, which reflects typical practice for gifts of this size, she said.

The college received the gift from alumna and trustee Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan, class of 1991, of Woody Creek, Colorado. The largest portion of the gift — $10 million — will establish the endowed Mary Bucksbaum Scanlan '91 Visual Arts Creativity Fund, which will provide support in perpetuity for all aspects of visual arts priorities and programs, including: scholarships for students pursuing visual arts; field work term scholarships for art-related internships; faculty positions; and art exhibitions and related programming, including in the Usdan Gallery, according to a media release from the college.

The gift is another investment in one of the things Bennington College is so well known for — "the primacy of the visual arts in all that we do in the liberal arts," Bartels said.

"Really, it is infused across campus," she said.

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"I am thrilled to make this investment in the present and future of Bennington College," Scanlan said in the release. "My belief in the value and power of a Bennington education is unstinting; it changed my life. Bennington is a beacon in higher education and expanding the endowment to assure our future is paramount. I know how powerful the integration of art in a liberal arts education is to students' ability to create new work in all fields, and I'm pleased to support today's students and faculty - and those in the future - with this gift."

The gift is an investment in the college today, and a "really extraordinary thing" is that the outright spendable portion of the gift — $2 million — is equal to essentially what the investment income of the college's endowment would be, if the college's endowment were fully funded today, Bartels said.

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With Scanlan's commitment, the endowment now reaches $52.9 million toward the capital campaign's goal of increasing the endowment to $100 million, according to the release.

The college intends to establish a $100 million endowment in support of the five priorities of its capital campaign: financial aid, field work term, public action, campus renewal and the Bennington Writing Seminars.

A gift of this size isn't uncommon for the college, Bartels said.

"I would say for us, Bennington as a relatively small school has enjoyed this kind of eight-figure gifts at different points in the past decade," she said. "We've had a number of eight-figure gifts, and I think that's pretty remarkable for a school of our size."

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With Scanlan's contribution, the college's $150 million capital campaign has reached $99.9 million, including deferred gifts — those that are paid over a period of time, said Alex Dery Snider, director of communications at the college.

Scanlan, who studied photography as a student at Bennington College, has been an "incredibly engaged alumna" for many years, and has been a supporter of the college for many years since she graduated, Bartels said.

She previously donated more than 500 books to the Edward Clark Crossett Library on campus, co-chairs the Arts for Access initiative at the college, and recently gifted 110 works of art from the collection of her late mother, Melva Bucksbaum, to enrich the college both for teaching and to fund scholarships that provide access, according to the release.

"This gift is a sign of her belief and her excitement about Bennington's future," Bartels said of Scanlan. "The gamut of her commitment at Bennington is broad and vast, and I think this is really a culminating expression of that generosity."

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at, at @BAN_pleboeuf on Twitter and 802-447-7567, ext. 118.


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