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Hamilton Alumnus Donates $5 Million to Support Faculty Programs

By Mike Debraggio
Posted September 30, 1998
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Hamilton College has received its largest gift ever from a living donor — $5 million from 1948 graduate Daniel C. Ferguson, former chairman and chief executive officer of the Newell Company.

The gift will be used to create endowed professorships and to endow a Presidential Fund for Faculty Innovation at Hamilton.

"Dan Ferguson is a member of one of those special families whose members' lives have been shaped by Hamilton, and who, in turn, have played an active and important role in the life of the college," said President Eugene M. Tobin. "The Ferguson family's extraordinary generosity and commitment to Hamilton are both inspiring and challenging. We are truly grateful."

In recognition of the gift, Hamilton will officially name the former Delta Upsilon Fraternity on Campus Road as the Leonard C. and Mildred F. Ferguson House in honor of the donor's parents. The ceremony will take place on Friday, Oct. 9, at 11:30 a.m.

The Ferguson gift, which is part of a trust agreement with the college, will be applied to the $5 million challenge Hamilton received from the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation last fall. When awarding Hamilton $2.5 million for faculty support, the foundation challenged the college to secure twice as many new endowed funds to support the same objectives. The Ferguson gift fulfills that challenge.

Ferguson came to Hamilton in 1946, following his release from the U.S. Navy in 1946. He joined Delta Upsilon Fraternity and was co-captain of the basketball team. In 1950, after receiving an M.B.A. from Stanford University, he returned to his hometown of Freeport, Ill., to join Newell Company. In 1966, he succeeded his father as chief executive officer.

Recognizing the impact of the soon-to-be giant merchandisers KMart and Wal-Mart, Ferguson grew the home-furnishings company from sales of $14 million in 1966 to $2 billion when he retired from the day-to-day running of the company in 1992. In the interim, he acquired more than 30 small companies and invested heavily in machinery and equipment to modernize production and reduce manufacturing costs.

Today, Ferguson resides with his wife, Nancy, in Naples, Fla., where he enjoys golf, boating and playing the piano. In recognition of his entrepreneurial ingenuity and success, Hamilton awarded him an honorary degree in 1997. In addition to Dan Ferguson, his late brother, Rodger '47, father, Leonard '19, and grandfather, Daniel A., class of 1871, graduated from Hamilton. Mildred Ferguson, Dan's mother, remained a passionate and generous supporter of Hamilton throughout her lifetime, and Nancy Ferguson Seeley, Dan's sister, currently serves the college as a member of its Board of Trustees.

The Ferguson gift represents the largest gift Hamilton has received from a living donor and the third largest gift overall. In 1995, Hamilton received $5.25 million from the estate of William McLaren Bristol, Jr. '17 for endowed scholarships and other programs, and in October 1996, Hamilton was the beneficiary of $9.1 million, also for student scholarships, from the estate of Doane Comstock '27.

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