College Announces $150 Million Fundraising Campaign


Focused on the student experience, the Forge a Legacy campaign is the largest in the College’s history and launches off the momentum of $85 million already raised since 2012.

Washington College has embarked upon the public phase of a $150 million comprehensive campaign, setting the highest fundraising goal in the institution’s 235-year-old history. Aimed fundamentally at the student experience and the value of the liberal arts, the Forge a Legacy campaign will secure for future generations the resources and opportunities necessary to achieve the kind of education that will enable them to be effective citizen-leaders in an ever-changing world.

Posing as “George” are Richard and Karen Fitzgerald. Richard is WC class of 1960. They moved to Heron Point in Chestertown two years ago.  Karen laughingly says that “Richard went to Washington College and never got over it!”

The college launched the campaign May 12 at a riverside reception in Chestertown’s Wilmer Park, with college faculty and staff, alumni and local supporters in attendance. (See photo essay below.)  Attendees were treated to a three-course dinner, featuring local produce. Musical entertainment was provided by pianist Joe Holt, the Washington College Jazz Ensemble and Steel Revolution. College President Sheila Bair, faculty members Michele Volanski, Michael Harvey and Anne Marteel-Parrish, student government President Melat Kiros, and Ann Horner, Edward Nordberg and Lawrence Culp of the Board of Visitors and Governors spoke. The program concluded with a fireworks display over the river.

“This campaign comes at a critical time for our college and our nation,” said Sheila Bair. “What we are doing here today at Washington College—in our interdisciplinary, hands-on approach to education, in our programmatic initiatives that take advantage of our setting here on the Eastern Shore, in our commitment to environmental sustainability, and in our efforts to reimagine how American families can better afford to send their children to this amazing place—this is revolutionary, in the same sense that our college founders set forth a radical new model of higher education more than two centuries ago.”

Focused on four thematic priorities, the Forge a Legacy campaign supports the college’s strategic plan and builds upon the momentum generated by $85 million raised since July 2012, when the preliminary phase of the campaign began. This campaign is slated to close in June 2020.

There were bottles of wine on each table. Two bands provided music throughout the evening.  A large screen projector showed campus pictures.

Four pavilion tents with clear plastic” picture walls” provided lovely views of the Chester River. There were even chandeliers hung from the tent ceiling.

“Already, through the foresight and generosity of individual and corporate donors, board members, alumni, and others, we have taken meaningful strides to build a powerful base for this effort,” said Larry Culp, chair of the college’s Board of Visitors and Governors and the Campaign Steering Committee. “With those funds, we have designed and built new academic buildings, including Barbara and George Cromwell Hall, and created new scholarship and affordability programs like George’s Brigade. We have supported faculty initiatives, such as matching funding to secure two Maryland E-Nnovation grants in two years—one for a new innovation chief at the Center for Environment & Society and the second for a director of the fledgling Eastern Shore Food Lab at Washington College. Now, we come to the next steps, securing the legacy of this college by empowering the futures of the students who come here to learn, grow, and pursue their dreams.”

As outlined at a May 12 launch rally on the Chester River waterfront for the Washington College community, the campaign’s four priorities are:

Access and Affordability: A keynote of President Bair’s tenure thus far, making Washington College more affordable and accessible to students from all walks of life through scholarships and accessibility programs is the largest component of the fundraising effort. Already, initiatives such as Dam the Debt and George’s Brigade have generated more than $6.5 million in endowed and current use funding. While $31.1 million has been raised so far toward this priority, through Forge a Legacy, the college intends to raise $60 million for student scholarships and support.

Local foods were prepared and served by students.

Faculty Excellence: Ask Washington College students to name the most prized aspect of their academic career and the answer is nearly universal: The one-on-one opportunities with faculty and the close mentoring relationship formed between teacher and student. Supporting faculty excellence, creating more endowed chairs, increasing diversity among the college’s faculty, and ensuring that teachers have opportunities, money, and tools for innovation, creativity, and research are fundamental goals of the campaign. Thus far, $13.2 million has been raised, with a goal of $25 million for new positions across the disciplines.

Student Engagement: Learning by doing is a hallmark of the Washington College education, whether

Doug Gates, WC class of 1959, lives in Chestertown within easy walking distance of the campus.

through study abroad, internships, or independent and faculty-led research projects that put students in the field, in the lab, in the teaching classroom, on the stage, or on Wall Street. These are critical opportunities to get hands-on experience in a field of study and to explore the multidisciplinary possibilities of blending studio art with mathematics, creative writing with biology, business with Hispanic studies—all while still having the college’s support to encourage risk-taking and bold choices. With $29.4 million raised, Forge a Legacy will seek a total of $35 million to continue to support this key pillar of the liberal arts education.

Chestertown town council member Linda Kuiper chats with the WC Goose.

The Learning Environment: Last fall, Washington College opened Cromwell Hall, a new academic building dedicated entirely to the Departments of Anthropology and Environmental Science and Studies. This fall, the college will break ground on the new Hodson Boathouse for its sailing and crew teams, including recreational waterfront access for staff and faculty. The two new buildings illustrate the college’s ongoing commitment to providing students, faculty, and staff with innovative infrastructure that enhances and expands the learning and teaching environment. The college has raised $11.6 million so far toward a campaign goal of $30 million.

Donations to the Forge a Legacy campaign will finance key Washington College initiatives such as scholarships that ensure access and affordability, resources that attract top faculty, programs that drive student engagement, and improvements that will build on the effectiveness of the learning environment. Learn more at

Emily Dobson (’20) , Jacob Vassalotti (’20), and Rose Adelizza, (’19) set up a mini-recycling center for the event. They also displayed a poster describing the activities of their organization, the Washington college Student Environmental Alliance.

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