Salisbury State gets $3.2 million gift Anonymous donation is largest for school

August 30, 1996|By David Folkenflik | David Folkenflik,SUN STAFF

Salisbury State University announced its largest-ever gift yesterday, a $3.2 million trust from an anonymous Eastern Shore benefactor whose largess should guarantee the public liberal arts college a quarter-million dollars a year in perpetuity.

"Needless to say, we're flying high around here today," said new Salisbury State President William C. Merwin, who revealed the gift to a standing ovation yesterday during his first address to faculty members and staff. "This is quite a nice welcome."

The money will be used for initiatives throughout the university, including financial aid for students, faculty salaries, and advances in technology. But Merwin, who has total discretion how to use the money, said he also hopes to bolster the school's collections of sculpture, photography and other art.

Bob Gearhart, the school's director of institutional advancement, said that the donor was impressed by a quartet of earlier gifts from Eastern Shore business executives, including poultry magnate Frank Perdue, who has given the university two gifts totaling $3.5 million.

Salisbury and all other campuses in the University of Maryland System are expected to intensify their efforts to secure outside gifts, as state allocations are unlikely to rise appreciably in the next several years. Each university or college is required by a seven-year system plan to generate an additional 20 percent (in inflation-adjusted dollars) more in 2002 than it did last year through private gifts and grants and contracts.

While the gift is far from the largest to a Maryland public campus -- the University of Maryland College Park, for example, has received two donations of more than $10 million -- it is a major milestone for the Salisbury school.

"In the shore, to tell you the truth, there's a relative paucity of major donors," Gearhart said yesterday. "When they're willing to make this kind of investment in public education, it's really a wonderful thing."

At $16 million, the college's endowment is larger than most public peers of its size: the school has about 6,000 undergraduate and master's students.

Under the terms of the gift, which functions like a bequest, a $3.2 million "charitable remainder trust" is being administered by the Salisbury State Foundation. The foundation will pay the donor income generated by the trust, which will then be directed to the university after the donor's death. Gearhart said the principal of the gift would not be touched to preserve its future strength.

The Salisbury announcement wraps up a productive week for campuses in the area: 12 miles down the road at Princess Anne, officials at University of Maryland Eastern Shore received last week a $1 million rural economics development grant from the Kellogg Foundation.

The money will help to create a $3 million center to encourage the hydroponic development of long-stemmed roses.

UMES President William Hytche said he envisioned a new industry which could foster 250 new jobs in the region.

Pub Date: 8/30/96

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