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McPherson College Exceeds Double Match Challenge, Establishing Largest Future Endowment in U.S. for a Small Liberal Arts College


By McPherson College 


MCPHERSON, Kan. — McPherson College in Kansas announced today that it has met the match on its historic $500 million endowment double match challenge. Additionally, the anonymous donor surprised the college community by committing an additional $500 million estate gift for a total commitment of $1 billion. The McPherson College Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to name the McPherson College endowment after two late alumni and professors at McPherson College, Drs. John Ward and John Burkholder. McPherson College President Michael Schneider announced the milestone at an on-campus event this morning attended by over 200 faculty, staff, trustees, students, and friends of the college.

The total funding of $1,592,000,000 will result in the largest endowment of any small liberal arts college in the United States. (Editor’s note: see below for breakdown)

The donor agreement provides the flexibility for the anonymous donor to pay out over time, or it is all paid in full upon the donor’s death, which is the latest time at which McPherson College would have access to the anonymous donor’s $1 billion. Most other gifts to meet the challenge will come over time as part of estate commitments.

“Today is historic, not just for McPherson College, but for all small liberal arts colleges in America,” said Schneider. “I am incredibly grateful to our anonymous donor for giving us an unprecedented opportunity—and responsibility—to build and implement our strategic vision of becoming a destination learning community. We have also been given an amazing opportunity to honor two legendary alumni and professors, Dr. Ward and Dr. Burkholder.”

“Now, the work begins to build a bridge to our future endowment,” Schneider added. “We need to carefully plan how the income from the endowment is deployed to reimagine and construct the campus of the future, build a much-needed rural health pipeline in Kansas, create a center for the future of automotive engineering, and work to make college more affordable for all our students. There has never been a better day to be a part of the McPherson College community!”

At its most recent meeting, the McPherson College Board of Trustees named the McPherson College Endowment the Ward-Burkholder Endowment. Dr. Ward graduated from McPherson College in 1950 and had a distinguished career in higher education, first as a professor of agriculture at McPherson College for 12 years and later at the University of Nebraska. Dr. Burkholder graduated from McPherson College in 1949 and was a professor of biology at the college for nearly 40 years. Many members of the Ward and Burkholder families were on hand at today’s event. 

“Naming faculty on this massive endowment highlights the unique faculty-student relationships found at McPherson College, including the times John and John were themselves students at the College. Priceless might be a fitting word to describe the influence that faculty, staff, and administration of McPherson College have on the lives of its students,” said Marty Ward, a McPherson College Trustee and son of Dr. John Ward. “The Ward and Burkholder families are honored and grateful to everyone who has had a part in the Ward/Burkholder Endowment. On behalf of Dad and Dr. Burkholder – thank you.”

According to the terms of the double match gift challenge that concluded on June 30, the anonymous donor agreed to contribute $2 for every $1 given by others, up to $500 million.   

Donations of this scale do not usually go to colleges with the size or location of McPherson College. This gives the school the rare opportunity to build and sustain the small liberal arts college of the future on the Plains. McPherson College is following its student-first values, directing the funds toward its academic programs as well as making college more affordable and accessible—ensuring talented people in places like central Kansas have the opportunity to thrive over the long term.

Joining in the day’s festivities was U.S. Senator Jerry Moran, the senior United States senator from Kansas.

“McPherson College has taken an innovative approach to training students to meet the demands of the McPherson community and the surrounding area,” said Sen. Moran. “The great work at McPherson College is attracting donors who want to support institutions offering young Kansans opportunities to thrive during college and long after they have graduated. I look forward to continuing to support these efforts at the federal level.”

McPherson College’s student-centric plans include a renewed collaboration on rural health initiatives, plans for state-of-the-art science and engineering facilities, and a huge boost for students facing challenges affording college. Specifically, this includes McPherson’s Community by Design strategic plan, which includes East McPherson, the campus master plan; a new Kansas Center for Rural & Community Health; and McPherson College’s Student Debt Project, which has been proven to be a true pioneer in college affordability.

The new Kansas Center for Rural & Community Health will ensure the next generation of practitioners can use the latest technology and techniques to help improve healthcare in rural Kansas. McPherson College’s groundbreaking Student Debt Project, which has established a successful partnership with local businesses, has made McPherson College significantly more affordable. The program, where McPherson College donors match 25 cents for every dollar a student contributes to their education, will be expanded in the future as a result of meeting the match, not only making a McPherson College education affordable for more students but also serving as a blueprint for other colleges across the country struggling with keeping student debt low in the face of rising costs.

 “McPherson College has been a special place for Richard and me for over a decade,” said Dr. Melanie Lundquist. “We have especially appreciated President Schneider and Provost Gutierrez’s innovative, problem-solving leadership. It has also been one of our greatest pleasures to support McPherson’s one-of-a-kind automotive restoration program. Richard was honored to donate his classic Ferrari to the program, and we are both thrilled that this unique program – and McPherson College — will be on solid footing for perpetuity because of this phenomenally generous matching gift.” 

The Lundquists committed $50 million to the match and donated his classic Ferrari to the college’s automotive restoration program—the nation’s only four-year degree program.

Next month, McPherson College’s automotive restoration program make its first-ever appearance on the industry’s biggest stage – the 2023 Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance. The students’ fully restored 1953 Mercedes-Benz 300 S Cabriolet will compete at this year’s event, a monumental milestone for the unique program. 

The announcement was recorded live at