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Hamilton College Receives Largest Gift Ever

$10 M Commitment Challenges Other Arts Donors

By Vige Barrie  |  Contact Vige Barrie 315-859-4623
Posted January 26, 2007
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Hamilton College has announced the single largest gift in its history, $10 million from Wendy and Keith Wellin for a three-building arts complex.

Keith Wellin is a 1950 Hamilton graduate and retired Wall Street executive who currently serves the college as a life trustee. The gift will honor his parents, Ruth and Elmer, and will serve as a lead gift and a challenge to other potential donors to fund this arts project.

"I had the influence of my father, who was quite a fine painter," Wellin said, "but Hamilton's impact on me in terms of art and the art world, drama and the fine arts, was such an important part of my liberal arts education. To get that kind of exposure, to a teaching faculty, gallery, theater, that was an eye-opener for me."

"If our name is on anything," Wellin added, "I want it to be my parents who are honored."

"These facilities will be a transformative force in arts education at Hamilton," said President Joan Hinde Stewart. "The Wellins' generous gift will enhance student learning by fostering the development of new teaching methods and hands-on instruction. The arts have always been a high priority in the academic life of the college and this gift confirms that.  We are grateful for Wendy and Keith's leadership of this important project for Hamilton."

Once completed, the project will add more than 65,000 square feet for arts education at Hamilton, more than tripling the current available space. "The facilities we are proposing are programmed for change," said Sam Pellman, professor of music and faculty coordinator of arts facilities planning. "Boundaries will be permeable, including disciplinary boundaries as well as architectural ones. Teaching and presentation spaces will be highly flexible and will be anchored by dedicated support spaces nearby.  Each space will provide maximum opportunity for teaching and learning, for modeling best practices, and for the close interaction among students and faculty that distinguishes Hamilton College."  
                                                 
Expansion of the college's arts facilities is one of the major priorities of Excelsior: The Campaign for Hamilton. The Wellins' commitment will serve as the lead gift for that project and is the largest gift to the campaign.

"My interest in arts," Wellin said, "began with my father, an artist whose talent was sidelined in order to earn a living. Even though, as a college student, his cartoons were professional enough to be published in the Grand Rapids, Michigan paper, he turned to real estate to support his family." Later in life when he was economically comfortable, Elmer Wellin returned to painting and opened his small art gallery in Chicago.

"I am very proud of Dad. My parents were a great couple," Wellin continued.

Wellin graduated from Hamilton with a degree in English literature, then earned an MBA from Harvard. During his career on Wall Street, he served as president and vice chairman of E.F. Hutton, president of Reynolds Securities Inc. and then chairman of DW Intercapital Inc. and vice chairman of Dean Witter Reynolds. He also served as chairman of Moorco International, a Houston-based energy equipment company.

A life trustee whose service on the board began in 1969, Wellin has remained actively involved at Hamilton. In addition to his contributions as a board member, he served as chairman of the investment committee from 1988 to 1992. Like his father, Keith Wellin collects art and has lent several paintings by well-known American artists to Hamilton for exhibitions in the Emerson Gallery.

"I believe in putting the arts into liberal arts. Often students don't know what they don't know before coming to Hamilton. They get an exposure to the arts that lasts a lifetime." Wellin said. I'm proud that this arts complex is on its way."

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