Wilmington College’s largest gift ever received in its 150-year history will accelerate the ongoing renaissance WC has enjoyed in recent years as a result of enrollment records, new academic programs, major gifts, fiscal stability, and new and renovated facilities.
With the disbursement pending, the college expects to receive $13.5 million from the estate of Catherine “Cathy” Withrow, widow of 1958 alumnus Andrew “Andy” Withrow. They join a fellowship of key supporters who continue to demonstrate their confidence in Wilmington College. The college accepts their gift as a reflection of the couple’s belief in its ongoing commitment to excellence as a Quaker-affiliated institution of higher education that is preparing the leaders of tomorrow, according to WC President Jim Reynolds.
The Withrows, of Cincinnati, have a long history of supporting Andy’s alma mater. Starting in the 1960s, almost immediately after Andy graduated, they contributed $20 annually to the college phonathon. Their legacy of giving continued through the decades and increased as their means allowed. In 2008, theirs was the first $1 million, non-estate gift received by WC. It provided seed funding for the construction of the Center for the Sciences and Agriculture (CSA), the college’s largest academic building, which opened in 2016.
In accordance with the impact of their estate gift, the board of trustees has chosen to rename the CSA building to The Withrow Center for Agricultural, Life and Physical Sciences. A dedication ceremony will be announced in due time, welcoming back to campus the Withrows’ core group of WC friends.
Reynolds expressed his great appreciation for what he described as a “momentous gift.” Their “investment in the future of the college will enable us to move forward with important elements of our Campus Master Plan now,” he said.
According to the wishes of the Withrows, the gift is restricted to capital projects and scholarships. A considerable amount has been earmarked for the renovation of campus residence halls to ensure they meet the needs of the students of today and tomorrow.
Reynolds stressed that Wilmington College continues to be successful and adaptive in the ever-evolving higher education landscape. With strong academic programs, WC stands out in a crowded marketplace offering students a holistic approach to education.
Wilmington College ranks in the top quarter of colleges in the 12-state Midwest Region, according to the U.S. News & World Report’s 2019 “Best Colleges” issue.
In the past 10 years, the college has enrolled two of the largest freshman classes in its history, constructed two major buildings, strengthened its financial situation, all while continuing to offer rigorous academic programs, Reynolds said. It is widely respected for its comprehensive agriculture program, one of only three in Ohio and the only one housed at an independent institution. Its athletic training program, one of the largest and oldest in the state, recently transitioned to a master’s level program. A new master’s level occupational therapy program is set to launch within the next 18 months.
Reynolds believes that this period of renaissance was seen by the Withrows, which further endeared the pre-eminent school to them and other major donors. “We believe that this significant gift will encourage alumni and friends to continue, and even increase their donations, advancing the great work of the college,” Reynolds said.
Wilmington College recognized Andy for his career, service and philanthropy with an honorary doctorate at the 2007 commencement ceremonies. Little did anyone know that would be Andy’s last visit to his beloved campus, as he passed away unexpectedly in September of 2009. As a token of Andy’s lifelong connection to WC, his widow, Cathy, presented the college with his framed doctoral hood. This artifact has been displayed ever since in the president’s office as a reminder that a graduate’s connection with the college does not end after commencement but continues for life and beyond.
In the 10 years after her husband’s passing, Cathy continued to be impressed with the college’s strategic direction. She maintained a close affiliation with the college and the many alumni friends the couple so greatly valued. Cathy joined her husband in death March of 2019.
Andy hearkened back to both his grandfathers as instilling in him the value of giving back. Indeed, his paternal grandfather, Cincinnati surgeon Dr. John Withrow, is the namesake for the city’s Withrow High School.
“My wife and I have been blessed to have the ability to share in similar ways. Giving to focused areas in our life has been our main goal,” Andy said. “Cathy and I, many years ago, felt if we were in the position to give to a project, Wilmington College was high on our list.”
Submitted by Randy Sarvis, senior director of public relations, Wilmington College.