September 9, 2013

Donor withdraws $250M gift to tiny Ky. college

The all-stock donation had ranked among the 20 biggest gifts ever to a U.S. college or university.

By Bruce Schreiner / The Associated Press

A small Kentucky liberal arts college said Monday a $250 million donation that was among the largest gifts to higher education in U.S. history has been withdrawn.

Centre College — known for hosting vice presidential debates in 2000 and 2012 — said in a news release Monday that the gift from the A. Eugene Brockman Charitable Trust was linked to a "significant capital market event." The statement didn't offer further explanation but said it put considerable time pressure on the college to structure the gift and the proposed scholarship program.

"I am deeply disappointed with this unanticipated development," Centre College President John Roush said in a statement. "The Trust was inspired to make this gift because of the transformational education students receive at Centre, and we anticipated hundreds of young men and women benefiting from this scholarship."

The college said the two sides ultimately decided they could not finalize the deal and get the required approval in the time available. The statement did not include comment from the trust.

Roush said the college will continue its pursuit of creating the type of scholarship program envisioned by the gift. It had been slated for use by students majoring in natural sciences, economics and computational sciences.

"We will continue to pursue the goal of such a program designed to prepare students as leaders and entrepreneurs," Roush said. "A task force of trustees, faculty, staff and students will be assembled to continue this conversation."

The all-stock donation had ranked among the 20 biggest gifts ever to a U.S. college or university, according to a list maintained by the Chronicle of Higher Education. It had been the second-largest such gift to a U.S. school since 2011, according to the Chronicle of Philanthropy, surpassed only by New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's $350 million donation to Johns Hopkins University announced earlier this year.

Brockman formed the charitable trust in 1981, a few years before his death. His son, Robert T. "Bob" Brockman, attended Centre for a couple of years before getting his degree elsewhere and is a former chairman of the school's board of trustees. Bob Brockman, who lives in Houston, left the Kentucky school because he wanted a degree in business administration, which isn't offered as a major at Centre.

Bob Brockman is also president and CEO of The Reynolds and Reynolds Co., an auto dealer services firm that merged with Universal Computer Systems in 2006.

Richard Trollinger, Centre's vice president of college relations, said the Brockman Trust has been "a longtime friend and important partner." He said the trust has made a number of generous gifts over the years to help transform the campus and improve its facilities.

"Our collaboration with the Brockman Trust has made us better in many ways and will continue to do so," he said.

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