Gift of gratitude

Empty pockets are often the greatest of obstacles for a heart full of dreams. About two years ago alumnus Dan Rather found himself digging in his once empty pockets and giving back to the school that gave him his start. With a generous gift of $2 million to Sam Houston State University, students want to know where that money went.

Used for the purpose of endowments, the money has been invested towards proceeds, but the money itself remains untouched.

“The $2 million has been split into endowments,” John D. Castro of the Humanities and Social Sciences Department said.

One half of the contribution has been invested to provide financial assistance to support academic excellence with emphasis on journalism, television, and radio programs within the department of mass communication.

“The [first] is called the Dan and Jean Rather President’s Discretionary Endowment,” vice president of University Advancement, Frank R. Holmes said.

The proceeds have also been invested into a new chair for the department of mass communication.

“The second, the Dan and Jean Rather scholarship endowment fund, is used to provide annual scholarships (a minimum of $3000 each) university wide. It doesn’t matter which academic discipline the student may be involved with,” Holmes said.

Typically the donor will tell the university what they would like to have the contribution dispersed towards. Sometimes the university officials will take the donor’s concept and make suggestions with a process of negotiations to arrive at something that is both mutually beneficial to the donor’s interest, and also supports the university.

“In this particular case Mr. Rather was pretty clear that he wanted to help those programs in mass communication and at the same time since he was a student in dire financial need when he attended the university he wanted to make sure at least half of the money was set aside to help students with financial need,” Holmes said.

The contribution was recognized this fall by The Giving Back Fund’s second annual Giving Back 30 survey as the 14th largest donation to a charity from a celebrity.

“It was the largest single contribution ever given to the university,” Holmes said. “At that time, his commitment put us at about $23 million on our capital campaign and since that time it has grown to over $43 million. For our university, seven figure gifts are noteworthy and six figure gifts are not common.”

Holmes said it was Dr. Gaertner who spoke with Rather about the Share the Vision Campaign’s need for a contribution.

“He really wanted to do something nice for the university, and then followed up sometime later with his gift commitment.

Holmes said Rather has a deep affection for the university.

“He speaks very fondly of his days here as a student, the kindness that was extended to him by the faculty, and the way people tried to help him when they knew he needed help. I think we are really blessed to have him as an alumnus,” Holmes said.

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