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Whopping $200M gift triples Catawba College's endowment and will boost environmental sustainability efforts

Aerial photo of Catawba College, a small private college in Salisbury, North Carolina.
Courtesy of Catawba College
Aerial photo of Catawba College, a small private college in Salisbury, North Carolina.

An anonymous donor has given Catawba College, in Salisbury, a $200 million dollar gift, effectively tripling the size of the small, private college's endowment.

"This left us speechless," said Catawba College's President David Nelson. "It left us wondering if we were reading numbers correctly."

Nelson says higher education donations of more than $100 million are considered notable "mega-gifts" even at large institutions.

"I think it is a rarity for a college like Catawba College to get such a gift," Nelson said. "And so that's meaningful to any institution. It is especially meaningful to Catawba."

The donation comes with very few strings attached. The donor specified that one-third of the funds must support Catawba College's environmental and sustainability programs.

The rest is unrestricted and will strengthen the college's endowment, which had reached $100 million in August 2021. The endowment supports scholarships, programs and the college's long-term strategic plan.

"It really funds our imagination about how we can do the things we do well, even better, and how we can take care of our students for generations to come," Nelson said.

Nelson said the college has been known for its sustainability efforts, with early investment in solar and geothermal energy on campus and a 189-acre ecological preserve. He hopes to strengthen that reputation as a model for environmental sustainability through new initiatives and by investing in the College's environment and sustainability department.

"Catawba College has long been a leader in those programs though that's not well enough known. I hope this gift changes that," Nelson said.

Liz Schlemmer is WUNC's Education Reporter, covering preschool through higher education. Email:
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