Letters to the Editor

Leveraging Mystery Gifts to Help Future Students

November 29, 2009

To the Editor:

We at Penn State Harrisburg are very pleased to be among the 20 institutions nationwide that have benefited by receiving a gift from the mystery philanthropist (The Chronicle, October 18). The Chronicle is to be commended for capturing the real heart of this story—that these donations will aid thousands of students both immediately and well into the future, thanks to the leveraging power they have provided to the recipient colleges and universities.

Like many of the institutions receiving this money, we have placed the funds in endowments, increasing their value and guaranteeing their benefits for future generations. I would like to clarify this point, however, as the chart accompanying the article may be misleading: The "amount already spent" for Penn State Harrisburg is actually earnings from the gift. In fact, $1.5-million of our gift was placed in an endowment for which Penn State matched the interest through its Trustee Matching Scholarship Program and advanced the funds at the beginning of the academic year, enabling the money to be distributed immediately in the form of scholarships.

Originally, national coverage of this story was buoyed by the intrigue surrounding the donations—the similarities of the institutions, the instructions for use of the gifts, and, of course, the anonymity of the donor. Now the best part of the story is being revealed—the profound impact that this philanthropy has had, and will continue to have, on students across the country.

Madlyn L. Hanes
Pennsylvania State University-Harrisburg
Middletown, Pa.