An Unprecedented Gift
Story by R. Judson Carlberg
Early in my presidency, a colleague from another campus took me aside to offer this succinct challenge: "Most people on your campus will get up each morning thinking about what they have to do to be ready for the day ahead. When you get up in the morning you need to be thinking about getting ready for the next 10 years."
Those few words changed my perspective on my leadership role and influenced the weight I give to the strategic planning that charts Gordon's future. I vividly remember launching the first strategic plan of my presidency on October 1, 1992. I felt a deep sense of responsibility that day as the Reverend Raymond Lee, then dean of the chapel, asked the Cabinet to gather around me in a circle and pray for wisdom.
We were facing many pressing financial challenges. Faculty and staff were inadequately compensated. The campus buildings were in disrepair. Our resources for scholarships and student financial aid packages were limited, though the cost of a Gordon education was rising. And our endowment was $10,000,000, a small sum compared to the endowments of similar colleges.
The Cabinet and I decided to go forward with a plan for sweeping changes to the campus, a plan with which our trustees concurred. We felt that without immediately improving our facilities, our mission would be sorely compromised. And we launched out, believing that if we were faithful to what God was calling us to do in the present, He could also be trusted to provide for our long-term needs.
On that October day our prayers were only beginning. For many years Jan and I have prayed for each entering freshman by name and asked for their growth and well-being. We prayed for the new classrooms and residence halls and other facilities our faculty and students so clearly needed. And, not least, we asked God to bless Gordon College with an endowment of $100,000,000, even though we knew our prayers for a tenfold increase were completely unrealistic apart from the Spirit of God working in people's hearts. In fact, Jan and I sometimes wondered if we were being presumptuous to pray such a prayer in the midst of all the other needs. Yet the truth is that even this seemingly "unrealistic" sum is an excellent start but cannot be our final goal.
As you know if you have visited campus recently, many of our prayers have been answered beyond our expectations. We have been blessed with 11 new facilities ranging from the A. J. Gordon Memorial Chapel and Bennett Athletic and Recreation Center to the Ken Olsen Science Center now underway. We have made significant gains in other areas as well. But what of our endowment? What of this crucial need for long-term financial strength? Over the years, through the generosity of many and through the normal growth of our investments, our endowment doubled and then tripled to over $33,000,000. Progress, to be sure, but well short of $100,000,000.
Then the miracle happened. Bob Grinnell, Gordon's vice president for development, introduced us to Dale and Ann Fowler, two faithful Christians with grandchildren now attending Gordon. In one of our first conversations Dale and Ann asked, "What is your greatest need at Gordon right now?" Although there were several priorities, we highlighted the need to significantly increase our endowment, the surest way to greater financial stability. Several months later Dale and Ann came to us with a staggering proposal. They told us that, through their estate plan, they wanted to make an unrestricted gift of $60,000,000 to Gordon's endowment. When realized, this unprecedented gift will help Gordon take a huge step toward a stronger financial future. Moreover, the Fowlers' gift, along with other deferred gifts to Gordon, will bring us to the $100,000,000 endowment for which we have been praying since the early 1990s.
In response to the Fowlers' gift, we lift our hearts in gratitude to God for His faithfulness to the College. Particularly at this Advent season, we give glory to Him Who withholds no good thing from us, not even His only Son.
R. Judson Carlberg, Ph.D., is the president of Gordon College. He came to Gordon in 1976 and served as dean of faculty and director of development before being named, in 1992, as Gordon's seventh president. He is working with the Board of Trustees in forging a vision for Gordon that is increasingly urban and global.