ARCHIVED: Grant from Mellon Foundation to Endow Faculty Chairs

The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation has awarded Sarah Lawrence College a $3 million grant to support the building of the College’s endowment while simultaneously providing immediate budgetary relief. The grant was awarded on the basis of a 3:1 match; $9 million has been raised by the College.

The successful proposal creates a dedicated fund that addresses two of the College’s highest priorities: building the endowment and attracting and retaining talented and committed faculty.  The fund is unusual in that it will spin off endowed chairs or program directorships, rather than be subject to standard use of endowment income for operations. All earnings on the fund, referred to as the “Mellon Core,” will be reinvested until the "Core" has a sufficient principal balance to fund the first endowed chair -- $1.5 million – in 2008-09.  Because all earnings on the Core will continue to be fully reinvested, it will be possible to generate new chair endowments from the Core's principal every two or three years. Thus, the “Mellon Core” will become a perpetual engine for creating endowed posts that in turn will provide significant budget support.

The College was one of 16 small “excellent but under-endowed” liberal arts colleges invited by the Mellon Foundation to apply for a Centers of Excellence grant to “address a major priority, leading to a long-lasting, positive educational and financial outcome.”

“Alumnae/i, friends and foundations are responding with enormous generosity to the challenge presented by the Mellon Foundation – and the focused, inspired efforts of President Myers,” said Robert Riggs, chairman of the Board of Trustees. “The $3 million grant has already leveraged $9 million and we are well on our way to a fund goal of $15 million.”

For a variety of reasons, among them the fact that the College is relatively young compared to its peers, Sarah Lawrence has a small endowment – approximately $63 million as of the last fiscal year. At the same time it has one of the lowest student - faculty ratios in the country. Ninety percent of its classes are seminars with a maximum of 15 students. Its unique pedagogy institutionalizes one-on-one meetings with faculty through conferences, or independent study components, for each class. A commitment to teaching and student advisement, in addition to academic excellence, characterizes the faculty.

“Teaching people to think well takes face-to-face time between teachers and students and that requires substantial investment in faculty,” said President Michele Myers.