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Making Philanthropy Visible

As a fundraiser and a university leader, I’m always interested when philanthropy is in the news. So I’m pleased to note that in the past few months we at George Mason University have made more than our fair share of news, including extraordinary gifts that have led to the renaming of Mason’s school of public policy and the renaming of our law school after Justice Antonin Scalia. We are incredibly grateful to each of the donors involved for their leadership and their generosity.

Mason is a young university, and we are fortunate that many of the generation who have built and shaped this institution—philanthropists as well as public servants—are still with us. We recently honored former Virginia Governor Linwood Holton, for example, by naming a prominent plaza on the Fairfax Campus in his honor. And we will continue to look for similar opportunities to recognize such leaders, as universities public and private always have. At Mason we are creating our own traditions, and proudly writing our own history, as we speak.

As we honor our past, we also must foster private philanthropy to secure our present and our future. Though George Mason is a public university, taxpayer dollars amount to just a small portion of the funds our students and faculty need. Last year, state funds covered only 17% of Mason’s total operating expenses. That percentage has been declining for years; increasing private philanthropy is essential to cover the gap. That’s why we encourage every alumnus to give, at whatever level he or she feels appropriate. It’s how we give back—so that the next generation of students and strivers can write their own chapter in Mason’s history. And it’s why we seek out, and celebrate through naming, extraordinary gifts that can fund scholarships, raise buildings, and leave a legacy for generations.

In May we announced a gift of $10 million from businessman and philanthropist Dwight C. Schar, a new high point in his three-decade history of commitment to George Mason. In his honor, Mason’s public policy school will now be known as the Schar School of Policy and Government. All 2,000 undergraduate and graduate students at the school will directly benefit from this gift. It is an extraordinary legacy that befits a man who has long been a builder in every sense of the word. Thank you, Mr. Schar. You are making a difference that will be visible for decades to come.

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Janet E. Bingham, PhD
Vice President, Advancement and Alumni Relations
President, George Mason University Foundation

Summer 2016 / reprinted from Spirit, the magazine for the George Mason University community