Centre close to reaching $200 million endowment campaign goal

Published 8:46 am Friday, February 2, 2018

In honor of its 200th year in 2019, Centre College is planning to increase its endowment by at least $200 million by the end of this year. That goal has already nearly been reached with most of the year to go.

According to a news release, the Centre College Board of Trustees learned at its annual winter meeting in Louisville that the Third Century Campaign — which kicked off in January 2015 — has already reached a total of $198,863,116.

That leaves $1,136,884 to raise with 11 months left in 2018.

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Centre College Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Shawn Lyons said as Centre celebrates its bicentennial in January 2019, the college will also celebrate reaching — and probably surpassing — its $200 million goal.

“We are preparing the college for the next century,” Lyons said.

However, Centre won’t automatically deposit the lump sum of $200 million in the bank, Lyons explained. He said the task of having a successful, lofty endowment campaign is a complicated and drawn-out process which takes planning and involves many elements over the course of several years. 

Centre’s leadership has taken steps to ensure it will be a financially and academically strong institution thanks to the $200 million endowment — and that “is really good for Danville,” Lyons said.

Michael Strysick, director of communications at Centre, said the college is also beneficial for Kentucky.

With the $200 endowment, Centre has committed to “provide a great education for the best and brightest here in the commonwealth,” Strysick said. “And then hoping that those graduates then contribute to …  the strength and well-being and vibrancy of Kentucky as well.”

Lyons said, “I think that we serve Kentucky best by playing at the highest level we can play.” And in order to do that, the college has to compete on a national level, he said. 

Competing nationally for qualified students and faculty means Centre is up against schools such as Davidson, Washington and Lee, Kenyon, Depauw, Furman — “That’s who we measure our selves against,” Lyons said.

“And in that realm, we’re not at the top of the list in terms of ‘how big is our endowment?’ We’re at the bottom half, not the top half,” he said. “I sometimes worry that as we get more national, people don’t understand that we’re better for Kentucky and Boyle County and Danville than we’ve ever been before,” Lyons said.

With a fortified endowment, the college will be able to have more money to financially assist academically deserving area students, as well as those from diverse backgrounds from other states and countries.

The college will also continue to be able to recruit and retain high-caliber faculty members, Lyons said.

In addition to supporting students and faculty with proceeds from the endowment, Lyons said college trustees would like to add a $10 million endowment to Norton Center for the Arts. This could be used to subsidize ticket sales in order to keep prices reasonable for performances.

Lyons said Centre College and Danville are mutually beneficial for each other. 

“It works both ways,” he said.”Danville is an asset to us.”

Centre is a major employer in the county, Lyons said, and Norton Center adds a quality of life to Danville. “And there are about 1,400 pretty great kids on campus. A lot of them get really involved in community and public service and outreach.”

He said the faculty and staff support the community in many ways by shopping here, joining organizations and volunteering.

“On the flip side,” Lyons said, Danville is a pretty and historic town with national ratings that prove the area is an attractive place to live, which is “helpful to us when it comes to recruiting students who want to go to a small college in an idyllic little Norman Rockwell kind of small American town. That’s important to us.”

“If the community’s not thriving, it’s not good for us,” he said. “So I think Centre being really financially strong is really good for Danville.”