The amazing gifts

The news defies the imagination, but grabs hold of a very old idea: Give generously without a public display.

Since March 1, that is exactly what has been happening in the financial offices in at least nine state universities across the nation, according to the Associated Press. The recipients of $46.5 million received their portion of the windfall with three stipulations: The bulk of the money must be used for student scholarships, the remainder can be spent on various costs such as research, equipment, strategic goals and operating support . . . and the recipients must not try to find out the source of the cashier’s checks or checks received from a law firm or representative.

The chancellor of the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs accepted $5.5 million and signed a confidentiality agreement that she would not try to find the donor.
Because middlemen were used, it’s not clear whether the gifts came from an individual, an organization or a group of people with similar interests.
“It was a remarkable gift particularly during these economic times,” said David Wolf, vice president of advancement at the University of Southern Mississippi. The $6 million the school received is their largest single gift ever.

“I think somebody is out there, or potentially a group of people, that has a great respect for the value of a college education and the power that it brings,” Wolf said. “Gosh, if it’s the same person or the same collective group of people, it’s an amazing story.”

How refreshing! Gifts given with no “grip and grin” photo session of recipients shaking hands with a smiling donor while holding a check between them. A gift with no expectation that the next dorm, classroom or athletic field will be named after the donor or their organization. A gift with no expectation that the donor’s child or grandchild will be accepted in the fall.

Someone, somewhere simply signed a check saying “here is cash to educate the next generation.”
“In my last 28 years in fundraising … this is the first time I’ve dealt with a gift that the institution didn’t know who the donor is,” said Phillip D. Adams, vice president for university advancement at Norfolk State University which received $3.5 million.

The other universities were Purdue, $8 million; $1.5 million to the University of North Carolina at Asheville; The University of Iowa received $7 million; the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Maryland at College Park each received $6 million; and Penn State-Harrisburg received $3 million.

An unusual story, but not a new idea. A couple thousand years ago Christ told his followers “When you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you,” Matthew 6:2-4 (NIV)

It takes a someone with a great heart to give without needing to have their ego inflated – but a secret gift does not need to be in the millions. Anyone seeing a need can prepare a meal, slip a couple dollars or pay on an outstanding bill. All it takes is a willing heart and an open hand.

(Joan Hershberger is a reporter at the News-Times. E-mail her at