Former D&E president began campaign

The Inter-Mountain file photo Former Davis & Elkins College President G.T. ‘Buck’ Smith speaks at the outdoor ampitheater on the campus.

ELKINS – When G.T. ‘Buck’ Smith arrived on the Davis & Elkins College campus to take the reins as the 12th president in 2008, the institution was on shaky financial ground. However, he had a plan — an intricate one that unfolded over a 10-year period designed to build the College’s endowment.

It began during the fall 2008 meeting of the D&E Board of Trustees when members accepted a $2.25 million gift challenge from three anonymous donors. Terms of the 1:2 challenge required the College to raise $4.5 million in matching funds within three years.

In 2010 came the $300,000 Buffett Challenge initiated by Doris Buffett. Her challenge, along with the Highlands Scholars Program, were celebrated with the Gershwin Gala performed by British concert pianist Jack Gibbons. Although the musical events were free of charge, the concert raised more than $100,000 toward the $300,000 Buffett Challenge with many private donors coming forward in support of the Highlands Scholarship. In the end, donors from across the globe helped the College surpass the $300,000 cash challenge in nearly half the time allotted.

The New Dawn Challenge was met on June 26, 2010, a full year ahead of schedule.

At the annual Founders’ Day Convocation in September 2010, the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation announced a $10 million gift to Davis & Elkins College. The largest in the College’s history, the five-year grant was used to retire debt and add to the College permanent endowment.

Although efforts continued in many forms, the final leg of the 10-year plan was announced publically in 2016. The Secure the Future campaign officially began when the D&E Board of Trustees accepted the $25 million McDonnell Challenge from Trustee James S. McDonnell III and the McDonnell Family Foundation.

Now as D&E President Chris A. Wood is steering the campaign to a successful close on June 30, some of the accomplishments include:

• Three academic chairs established

• 37 new endowed scholarships established

• 5,600-plus total donors

• 23,600-plus total number of gifts

• 43 new or increased estate commitments

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