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Connecticut College announces largest gift in college's history

New London — Students gathered on Tempel Green cheered Wednesday as Connecticut College President Katherine Bergeron announced the largest gift in the college’s history: $30 million to boost financial aid, athletics and the campus.

“This is transformational generosity, and it will touch the lives of every student on this campus for many years to come,” Bergeron said during the announcement.

Robert Hale, a 1988 alumnus of the college, and his wife, Karen, who gave the college $20 million in 2015 — at the time the largest gift in the college’s history — are now donating $10 million for financial aid, $10 million for improvements to campus infrastructure and $10 million for athletics, all areas significantly impacted by the pandemic.

Bergeron told the campus community that the gift is “an extraordinary statement at the end of the pandemic about their belief in this college, their belief in you, their belief in us and our ability to emerge from this pandemic stronger than we ever were before.”

She said the $10 million for the campus will fund immediate improvements at the end of a year that has shown how important living and working together in person is to the college’s mission. A news release from the college cites that, due to “students’ commitment to safety protocols, the College has maintained one of the lowest rates of COVID-19 cases in the country for the entire academic year."

Bergeron said Conn is one of a small number of colleges in the country that promise to meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated need. As the pandemic has increased financial need, the gift will provide $10 million for new resources for financial aid, according to the college.

“This endowment doubles their commitment from their previous gift so that we can continue to bring the best and brightest students from around the country and around the world,” Bergeron said.

At a time when varsity and club sports were significantly affected by the pandemic, the $10 million for athletics will allow the college to advance its long-term athletics plan to make critical improvements to facilities and coaching “as we continue to attract the best scholar athletes to Connecticut College,” Bergeron said.

With the gift, the college’s campaign fundraising stands at more than $170 million, according to the news release. The 2015 gift from the Hales “set the stage” for the current campaign.

“Today we mark a moment that will make our college stronger — today and for generations to come,” said Fritz Folts, chair of the college's board of trustees. “We also celebrate the strength of our alumni, the impact of our faculty and staff, the inspiration of our students and the enduring power of a Connecticut College education.”

With the 2015 gift and this year’s gift, the Hales have invested $5 million in career, $10 million in campus improvements, $15 million in athletics and $20 million in financial aid, Bergeron said.

Robert Hale is the president and CEO of Granite Telecommunications of Quincy, Mass., and serves on Conn's board, and Karen Hale is a philanthropist and advocate for health and wellness organizations, according to the news release.

“This College changed my life, and Karen and I believe deeply in its mission, in its innovations as a liberal arts educator and in the leadership skills it builds in students,” Robert Hale said in a statement. “More than ever, our society needs the kinds of graduates that this College helps develop, and we are honored to help do our part to stand with them. We hope others will join us.” 

College officials spoke during the event in front of a new outdoor stage, The Dune, which Bergeron said has allowed members of the campus community to convene for activities, such as a spring dance recital and a cabaret, which “brought a measure of joy at the end of a long and challenging year.”

Before the announcement, students and members of the campus socialized outdoors wearing masks, and there were food trucks and a photo booth.

k.drelich@theday.com

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