Colby-Sawyer Receives Record-Setting $10.2 Million Gift

Colby-Sawyer College has received the largest gift in its 183-year history in the form of a $10.2 million investment by longtime supporters William and Sonja Carlson Davidow ’56.

According to the terms of the gift, the $10.2 million investment will almost entirely benefit the college’s endowment, accounting for an immediate increase of 20 percent to the fund which now stands at nearly $57 million. In addition, the gift will fund both endowed faculty chairs and scholarships for years to come, and has the potential to add an additional $5 million to the endowment through matching gifts.

“Sonja and Bill Davidow’s generosity is truly transformative for the college,” Colby-Sawyer President Susan D. Stuebner said. “By giving this gift to the endowment, the Davidows have signaled their belief in the well-being of the institution and its future. I am deeply appreciative and humbled by their incredible support of our strategic needs.”

Colby-Sawyer will direct $4 million of the gift to fund the establishment of two endowed faculty chairs that will provide professors the financial means to pursue professional research and other developmental opportunities. An additional $500,000 will be used to establish a fund to maintain and improve the Davidow Center for Art + Design – the college’s newest building that was named for the Davidows in recognition of their leadership gifts to the project.

Another $500,000 will create an endowed scholarship fund that will provide financial assistance to students who would otherwise be unable to afford a Colby-Sawyer education.

“Financial aid made it possible for Sonja to attend Colby-Sawyer,” said William Davidow, who met his wife, Sonja, in the mid-1950s while attending nearby Dartmouth College. “It was a gift that changed her life, so we would love others to have access to that same life-changing opportunity.”

The Davidow’s gift will also be used to inspire others to give to the college. $3 million will be used as matching gifts for the creation of three additional endowed faculty chair positions. Donations of $1 million will be matched by the Davidows to create up to three new $2 million endowed chairs. Similarly, up to $2 million will be used to match gifts made to support endowed scholarship funds.

When these matching gifts are realized, the full impact of the Davidow’s investment will add more than $15 million to the endowment, growing the fund by more than 30 percent.

“For decades, Sonja and Bill have been true champions for Colby-Sawyer and we are deeply grateful for their extraordinary generosity,” Director of Development Beth Bryant Camp ’92 said. “Their transformational philanthropy has an immediate impact and allows our students to attain a better future, strengthen our faculty and exponentially grow the endowment.”

Inducted into the college’s Legends Society in 2013 for lifetime contributions totaling more than $1 million, the Davidow’s $10.2 million gift makes the couple the most generous donors in the college’s history. In addition to the lead gift that led to the construction of the Davidow Center for Art + Design, the Davidows funded the Sonja C. Davidow ’56 Endowed Chair of Fine Arts, which was awarded to School of Arts & Sciences Professor Jon Keenan in 2015.

William and Sonja have also supported the Student Aid Emergency Fund and are longtime supporters of the Colby-Sawyer Fund. Additionally, Sonja Davidow served as a member of the college’s Board of Trustees from 1989-92.

“Colby-Sawyer is a college of the future,” William Davidow said. “At a time when many are questioning the value of a college education, Colby-Sawyer is producing graduates that are in great demand as they enter the workforce.”