December 2, 2013—Craftsbury Common, VT—Today, Sterling College announced that it has received the largest challenge grant in its 55-year history. The challenge fund provides a dollar-for-dollar match for every gift made to the Annual Fund, up to $150,000. Once the challenge is met, it will provide $300,000 to the College. The challenge grant comes from longtime friend of Sterling College, trustee Penny Schmitt of Craftsbury Common.
The Sterling College community is deeply grateful for this gift, and offers its heartfelt appreciation to Ms. Schmitt. The Annual Fund provides for both financial aid and operational support. Sterling College is deeply committed to providing access for students to its unique liberal arts model. The college provides financial aid for one hundred percent of the student body. Currently, 54% of the student body is eligible for federal Pell Grants. Additionally, as Sterling College is a federally recognized Work College, all students must have jobs on the campus that not only support the campus community, but help pay for the students’ education.
When asked about the possibility of his gift to Sterling College being doubled by the challenge grant, donor Jake Perkinson said, “Sterling College is addressing the critical issues of the 21st century: climate change and our environment. Environmental stewardship is hugely important to me, which is why I support the college financially—even though I’m not an alumnus.”
“This gift is unprecedented,” said Tim Patterson, Director of Admission. “Our students are committed to a just and sustainable future, and this challenge grant is absolutely vital to making sure they can focus on their studies, and not how they’re going to pay for school.”
This gift caps a momentous calendar year for Sterling College. This year, the college announced it had 118 students this fall, its largest student body in recent memory; the completion of the divestment of its endowment from fossil fuel extractors; the launch of The Rian Fried Center for Sustainable Agriculture & Food Systems; the creation of a continuing education program, including a new, two-week artisan cheese program in partnership with the Cellars at Jasper Hill; and the completion of a record year in fundraising for the 2012-2013 fiscal year, with $546,723 raised for the Annual Fund.
Jonathan Larsen, the Chair of the Sterling College Board of Trustees, said, “This is an important and exciting time for Sterling College, and the challenge will support the college’s mission to ensure that a student’s decision to enroll is based on hard work, rather than on finances.”
Ms. Schmitt is encouraging others to join her in supporting the ecologically focused liberal arts college, while doubling the impact of their gifts. From 1973 to 2003, Ms. Schmitt and her late husband Michael ran the Inn on the Common in Craftsbury Common. Before that, she worked in advertising in New York City, supervising accounts at J. Walter Thompson, Medical News, and Geer, Dubois. Schmitt joined the Sterling College Board of Trustees in 2009 and was recently elected for a new term.