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Davidson College Gets $25 Million Gift

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Davidson College on Sunday announced one of the largest gifts in its history, $25 million from an alumnus to support The Davidson Trust, its program to ensure that students can graduate without loans. The donation came from Edward L. "Ted" Baker, a 1957 graduate and former Davidson trustee. Mr. Baker is the retired chairman of Patriot Transportation Holdings Inc. and lives in Jacksonville, Fla. Davidson President Carol Quillen announced the gift at the end of Sunday's 175th commencement on college lawn, drawing applause from graduates and their families. (Read a related story about graduation, "College ceremony honors grads, community leaders") "We are grateful beyond measure or words to Ted for his generosity and for the confidence that his investment demonstrates in us. Such ongoing, generous support from alumni, parents, faculty, staff, and current students makes it possible for Davidson to sustain a dual commitment to excellence and access at this crucial time in our nation's history," President Quillen said. The $25 million donation is the second largest in Davidson history, behind the $28 million gift from John and Claudia Belk in 2000. In a press release, Mr. Baker said: "Davidson has always been important to our family, and I'm pleased to offer this additional scholarship support as an investment in the future." The college said the gift will go toward the the Baker-Vagt Scholarship, which Baker established with his wife, Ann, and Davidson's 16th president, Robert F. "Bobby" Vagt '69, and his wife, Ruth Anne, to help students for whom a Davidson education would not otherwise be financially feasible. MEETING 100 PERCENT OF NEED Five years ago, Davidson was one of the first colleges or universities in the nation to eliminate loans from its financial aid packages, in a move to stay affordable and diversify. With The Davidson Trust, the college pledges to meet 100 percent of students' financial need, which it defines as costs beyond what financial guidelines say a family can pay. Under the no-loan policy, students get grants and work-study jobs to make up the difference. The big donation is a boost for a financial aid program that has been a major fundraising challenge since it was announced in 2007. Davidson officials initially projected they would need at least $70 million in new endowment funds to support the program. With the gift, Davidson now has raised $89.5 million in donations and pledges for The Davidson Trust. Grants have come from wealthy donors and from foundations such as the Duke Endowment and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation as well as alumni. The no-loan commitment is costly. Last year, Davidson's need-based financial aid pool totaled $20.6 million - including $1 million in federal funds, $584,000 in state funds, and $19 million of college funds. But the need is necessarily the same every year. "It varies, because we don't look at need" when admitting students, said college spokeswoman Stacey Schmeidel. The average need-based financial aid package at Davidson was $28,167 last year, according to the college. Awards ranged from $1,000 to $58,975. (The top figure covers not only the full cost of tuition, room and board and other expenses - about $50,000 this year - but books, travel home, and other living expenses.) Davidson officials said the financial-aid policy appears to be making a difference. When President Quillen testified before Congress about the program in February, the college said it is enrolling more minorities and students from other underrepresented" groups. And 44 percent of this past year's freshman class qualified for need-based financial aid, up from 33 percent four years ago. RELATED LINKS May 20, 2012, Davidson.edu, "Davidson College Receives $25 Million for The Davidson Trust" - Gift is Second Largest in College's History - the full college announcement, with background on the aid program and donor Ted Baker. Feb. 2, 2012, DavidsonNews.net, "Davidson's no-loan policy brings results - and attention" Past coverage of the Davidson Trust on DavidsonNews.net.