Sunday, March 30, 2008

Willie Free Hits It Big

Seal I caught it on the news last week and regular reader Jimmy Delco noted it as well, but alas I have not gotten around to this story until today.


And it's a big one for a small school in Delaware County.


Two of the area's wealthiest couples combined to give $45 million to Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades in Middletown, PA on Tuesday..The Lenfests (Suburban Cable money) and the Rowans (Inductotherm money here in Moorestown, NJ) made the gifts to the unique 120-year old school.  Rowan made the original $5 million gift as a challenge gift.  The school approached the Lenfests to meet the challenge and THEY turned around and challenged the Rowans to up the gift.  Ya gotta love it when rich people get competitive.


Williamson provides free education to young men to learn trades.  Preference for admission is given to guys from the Philly area who couldn't go to college otherwise.  The 120 year old school effectively doubles its endowment with these gifts, ensuring  that the school's mission will continue for generations. 


It's in an enviable position in higher education.  They've got the funds to do what they want, a distinctive niche of enrollment opportunity and the attention of the philanthropic community  at a crucial time.  With the economic crunch hitting higher education, as well as demographic pressures beginning to restrict enrollments, gifts like this can be transformational, giving institutions not only the opportunity to continue a current mission, but to develop important new programs, build classrooms, labs and shops for the future and catch up on deferred maintenance.


I've known a number of Williamson men.  They tend to be incredible people.  The school does an amazing job taking guys wilh what would be otherwise challenging futures and leading them to lives that matter.   It couldn't have happened to a better school.


 
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