A tiny liberal arts school in rural Kentucky that hosted vice presidential debates in 2000 and 2012 announced a $250 million donation Tuesday, one of the largest single gifts in higher education history.
The all-stock donation to Centre College from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust ranks among the 20 biggest gifts ever to a U.S. college or university, according to a list maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education.
It is the second-largest such gift to a U.S. school since 2011, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, surpassed only by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University announced earlier this year.
Centre will use the money to set up scholarships for students majoring in science, economics and computer science. Centre College President John A. Roush said the gift, which comes in the form of stock in Universal Computer Systems Holding Inc., represents a "fundamental transformation" in the school's ability to support students demonstrating leadership potential.
"The problems and the opportunities confronting our nation and world are increasingly complex, and the Brockman Scholars Program will empower talented young women and men with the knowledge, creativity and integrity necessary to address them," Roush said.
Starting in fall 2014, 40 new Brockman Scholarships will be funded each year for students majoring in the natural and computational sciences and economics, with a total of 160 students receiving the full-ride scholarships plus more benefits by 2017, the school said. The merit-based scholarships will cover tuition, room and board, and fees — which will cost $45,100 for the coming school year — as well as money to support study abroad, summer research and internships.
Brockman formed the charitable trust in 1981. His son, Robert T. "Bob" Brockman, is a Centre graduate and a former chairman of the school's board of trustees.
Bob Brockman is also president and CEO of The Reynolds and Reynolds Co., an auto dealer services firm that merged with Universal Computer Systems in 2006.
The elder Brockman "saw firsthand the tremendous impact that Centre had on his son ... whose own drive and ambition were empowered by his experience as a Centre student," said Evatt Tamine, trustee of the Brockman Trust.
The leafy campus in Danville, a picturesque central Kentucky town of about 16,000, has found itself on the nation's political center stage twice, when it hosted vice presidential debates in 2000 pitting Dick Cheney and Joe Lieberman and again in 2012 when Joe Biden and Paul Ryan squared off.
Centre expects enrollment of about 1,370 students for the fall semester. The school ranked 52nd nationally among liberal arts colleges in last year's ratings from U.S. News & World Report, but it ranked fifth in best undergraduate teaching and alumni giving.
A prior $19.5 million gift from the Brockman Trust went for construction of a dorm for upperclassmen that opened a year ago.
The latest gift comes amid the school's $500 million fundraising campaign leading up to Centre's bicentennial celebration in January 2019.