Making Hamilton Possible

by President Joan Hinde Stewart

A View from College HillI was able to attend college and graduate school only because of the generous scholarships given to me, principally by St. Joseph’s College and Yale University. I was (and remain) immensely grateful to those institutions, but I don’t recall ever considering, during my studies at either, that there were real people behind the awards — ­people who believed, if not exactly in me, then at least in the potential of the young men and women of the generations that would succeed their own.

I speak often of our College’s namesake, Alexander Hamilton, and remind our students of the role that philanthropy played in his career. His education was made possible because businessmen on the island of St. Croix reached deep into their pockets to send him to North America. Why did they do it? Biographer Ron Chernow speculates that friends and employers may have hoped Hamilton would become a doctor and return to practice medicine. Supporting a talented and deserving young man apparently seemed the right thing to do, even though a major hurricane had just dealt a terrible blow to the island’s economy. Little could his benefactors guess that the young man’s influence would help shape the modern world.

It seems likely that those who establish scholarships for today’s Hamilton students are similarly motivated. Alumni and friends of the College derive satisfaction from the knowledge that their gifts facilitate a ­Hamilton education for students of promise who have limited financial resources. For some alumni, of course, creating an endowed scholarship is an expression of gratitude for the financial assistance that enabled their own matriculation at Hamilton. For some, the philanthropic act is born of the determination that Hamilton must continue attracting and graduating ­students with the intelligence, ­passion and perseverance to address the world’s problems. Perhaps too, donors have experienced the pleasure and the happiness — and even the improved health — that scientists tell us are associated with philanthropy.

Today, hundreds of students on campus and thousands of alumni around the world owe their education to the discernment and sacrifice of those who preceded them on College Hill. Beginning on page 26, you can read about a few of the donors who have established more than 450 endowed scholarships at Hamilton — scholarships that make possible the careers of graduates destined to do great things. To all of them and all of you, along with all those whose generosity enabled my own ­education, I am profoundly appreciative.

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