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$9.1 MILLION BEQUEST IS LARGEST GIFT TO HAMILTON COLLEGE

By staff  |  Contact staff
Posted October 25, 1996
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A man whose family mortgaged its farm so that he could attend college in the 1920s has left his alma mater $9.1 million for student scholarships.

Doane Comstock, a self-described "country lawyer," graduated from Hamilton College in 1927. His gift represents the largest single contribution ever received by the liberal arts college. In just the past 13 months, three bequests received by Hamilton have added $15.6 million in endowed scholarship aid for students.

"Mr. Comstock's generosity will make an enormous difference in the lives of between 30 and 40 Hamilton students annually," said President Eugene M. Tobin. "That's a tremendous legacy for one individual who valued his own Hamilton education and wanted to make certain others would have the same opportunity he had."

The Dixon-Comstock Scholarship Fund, for which The Bank of New York will serve as trustee, is named in memory of Mr. Comstock, his wife, his grandparents and his mother. Recipients of Dixon-Comstock Scholarships must be U.S. citizens, have strong academic records, and qualify for financial aid.

Doane Comstock came to Hamilton in 1922 from Brewster High School. While an undergraduate, he joined Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and served as business manager of the Hamiltonian. He excelled academically, capturing the Winslow Prize in Greek and graduating Phi Beta Kappa with honors in philosophy and political science. After acquiring his LL.B. degree from New York University in 1933, he practiced corporate law in New York City, before establishing his own law firm on Main Street in Brewster.

In subsequent years, Mr. Comstock served as attorney for the village of Brewster and the town of Southeast. He was also president of the Brewster Board of Education for more than 25 years and a trustee of the Brewster Presbyterian Church. Mr. Comstock died on June 13, 1994, at the age of 90. His wife of 48 years, Helen Brancati Comstock, died two years later on August 23, 1996.

Due to Mr. Comstock's family's financial circumstances nearly 75 years ago, Tobin said the gift represents the intentions of a man who felt passionately about education in general and about keeping Hamilton accessible to academically talented students in particular.

"Throughout his life, Doane Comstock was committed to high quality education," said Tobin. "This gift perpetuates that commitment."

Mr. Comstock's gift comes approximately one year after William M. Bristol Jr., a member of the class of 1917, bequeathed $5.25 million to Hamilton, and several weeks after the college announced receipt of a $3.5 million bequest from the estate of William C. Bolenius, a 1921 Hamilton graduate. A large portion of each of those gifts have established endowed scholarship programs that provide renewable annual grants of up to $10,000 each to academically outstanding students who have demonstrated their proficiency in persuasive oral and written communication and their commitment to citizenship.

In just 13 months, the Bristol, Bolenius and Comstock bequests have added $15.6 million in endowed scholarship aid for Hamilton students. College officials estimate that approximately 75 students, or 4.5 percent of the 1,650 students who attend Hamilton, will benefit from these gifts.

"Student scholarship aid is our most pressing need," said Tobin. "These gifts will make an immediate and significant impact in Hamilton's ability to attract the nation's finest students."

Hamilton currently budgets nearly $11 million for financial aid. Approximately 54% of all Hamilton students are the beneficiaries of that generosity, with the average financial aid package totaling $17,705.

Hamilton's endowment and similar funds, which stood at $196 million on June 30, 1995, grew by 26 percent to $246 million one year later.

Hamilton is a highly selective, residential college that offers its 1,650 students a rigorous liberal arts curriculum. It is the third oldest college in New York State and is named in honor of U.S. statesman Alexander Hamilton, a charter trustee of the college's predecessor, the Hamilton-Oneida Academy.

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