Thanks to an unprecedented century-old donation from the Yale class of 1917, this year’s Senior Class Gift will include more than simply the money raised by graduating seniors.
An intergenerational trust established by 101 alumni of the class of 1917 at their 50th reunion has grown to $650,000 and will be combined with the Senior Class Gift this spring. In 1967, alumni gathering in Jonathan Edwards College reminiscing about their years at Yale decided to give back with a gift to Yale students they would never have the chance to meet.
“It is awesome to have a class that was so forward-thinking,” said AmandaLee Aponte, assistant director of the Yale College Alumni Fund. “They knew they’d be contributing to a class in the future, but in their wildest dreams, they couldn’t imagine what the class of 2017 would even look like.”
Aponte called the class of 1917’s gift a “once-in-a-lifetime phenomenon” that has never occurred in Yale’s 316-year history. In the six days since the Yale Alumni Fund informed the class of 2017 about the $650,000 donation, there has been an uptick in donations from seniors, Aponte said.
Each year, from late January to early February, a small group of seniors help lead a three-week fundraising effort among the graduating class. Fundraising began last week and will end on Feb. 22.
The resulting Senior Class Gift is an unrestricted pool of money within the larger Yale Alumni Fund, which the University can spend as it sees fit — on anything from financial aid to education development and library resources. These funds, as opposed to those that are part of the endowment, can be spent immediately.
The Senior Class Gift has raised $6,699.74 so far, with a participation rate of 20 percent.
According to the Senior Class Gift website, graduating classes usually raise over $25,000 over the three-week campaign, with an average gift of $27 per student. And while the minimum donation is $5, the recommended donation this year is $20.17 in honor of the graduating class year. Donations to the Senior Class Gift have declined in recent years, and the class of 2016’s participation in the campaign was an all-time low.
Jilly Horowitz ’17, one of the co-chairs in Branford College and a former production and design editor for the News, said she decided to join the campaign because she feels senior class gifts are vital to supporting future generations of Yalies.
“I think I’ve gotten more out of my Yale experience, from all the things that are not just taking classes, and I think those are the most important things that the funds end up going to,” Horowitz said.
The fundraising process is a competition among the residential colleges, with two students from each college spearheading their colleges’ campaigns. The Senior Class Gift offers to establish $10,000 financial aid scholarships in honor of the colleges that hit 90 percent participation, the college that raises the most money and the college with the highest average contribution. Each scholarship, named after the college and class, will be presented to an incoming freshman in that residential college.
At a kickoff meeting with all 30 Senior Class Gift co-chairs on Jan. 31 at the Quinnipiack Club, Yale College Dean Jonathan Holloway and chair of the Yale Alumni Fund Board Thomas Leatherbury ’76 LAW ’79 gave speeches discussing the importance of senior class gifts to Yale’s longevity.
“The class of 1917’s faith and investment in the future is a testament to the character of Yalies,” Aponte said. “Yalies today want to see Yale improve and continue to grow.”
According to Horowitz, speakers at the meeting said the class of 1917 could never have foreseen the makeup of the class graduating 100 years after they did. In 1967, at the 50th reunion of the class of 1917, women had not yet been admitted to Yale College.
“I always thought of the Senior Class Gift as a symbolic campaign, kicking off my Yale alum life, and didn’t think about the monetary amount of money involved,” Horowitz said. “But seeing the sum total of this year’s campaign, with the class of 1917’s donation, this will be something hugely impactful.”
The Senior Class Gift campaign was established in 1997.
Correction, Feb. 8: An earlier version of this story misstated the months in which senior class gift fundraising occurs.