Wellesley College has received the largest financial gift in its history, a $50 million donation from two graduates that the university said demonstrates a continued commitment to liberal arts, women-only education.
The gift, first announced Friday to students and graduates, kicks off a $500 million fund-raising campaign the women-only college officially launched over the weekend. The school has raised $335 million toward that goal, including the $50 million, officials said Monday.
The gift will help the college strengthen its career services for students and connect them to the worldwide “W network” of Wellesley graduates, who are famous for helping out fellow alumnae. The broader campaign will support multiple programs including academics and scholarships.
College officials did not release the donors’ names, citing their wish for privacy.
The women are from different generations (one graduated in the early 1980s and the other in the mid-1960s,) and combined their money because they both believed in the career services initiative, said Cameran Mason, a vice president at the college.
“For anybody who questions the need for an institution like Wellesley in today’s society, I think this gift is a wonderful answer to that,” Mason said.
Although many small liberal arts schools, particularly women-only schools, are struggling, Wellesley’s finances are solid, although it has run operating deficits in recent years.
President Kim Bottomly announced in April that she will step down at the end of this school year after nine years.
The college has a $1.8 billion endowment, which is larger than that of Boston University and Tufts University, but smaller than other nearby colleges including Harvard University, MIT, and Boston College. It drew 41 percent of its revenue from endowment returns last year, according to the school’s annual financial reports.
Several other local universities this year have also seen their largest gifts ever.
In March, BU received $50 million for its business school, which was renamed after the donors, Allen and Kelli Questrom. Harvard’s engineering school received $400 million from hedge fund billionaire John A. Paulson.
The previous largest donation to Wellesley was a $25 million gift in 2000 from graduate Lulu Chow Wang and her husband, Anthony, for the campus center. Four years later, the couple added another $2 million to the gift.
Wellesley senior Charlotte Harris said Monday that the latest donation has set campus abuzz.
“Students are definitely feeling very excited and very thankful,” said the Cincinnati native, who studies psychology and philosophy.
Harris said students are excited about the many projects happening on campus as part a university renewal project, but mentioned another area where students would like to see more resources.
“I think something that our students would really love to see are some more resources for wellness and mental health,” Harris said.
Adeline Lee, president of the college government, said students were “floored” to hear about the gift. She said the college’s career services are already excellent, but the money will serve as a “multiplier” of its success.