James MacLennan ’58

Throughout his life James MacLennan ’58 ­maintained a fondness for and a connection to his alma mater — the depths of which were not fully realized until after his death in February 2018. Motivated by a desire to ensure the benefits of a Hamilton education to future generations, he provided a gift in his estate plan that has prompted a $10 million challenge.

“Jim was an understated guy who started as a consistent donor to the Annual Fund, and as his gifts increased, he began to earmark them to be spent for scholarships,” said Ben Madonia ’74, director of planned giving. “His motivation wasn’t recognition; he simply wanted to impact as many students as possible and change the trajectory of their lives.”

True to MacLennan’s nature, he never informed the College of the amount of his intended gift nor designated a specific purpose. However, knowing that he supported student financial aid — and would delight in others doing the same — the College’s advancement team created the MacLennan Scholarship Match. Instead of the usual base gift of $100,000 to endow a named scholarship, donors can create one with a $50,000 gift that is then matched with MacLennan funds until the match pool is depleted.

“This match allows donors, who never thought they could endow a scholarship, to name one in honor of family, a faculty member, or someone who has shaped their lives,” Madonia said. “It seemed logical since Jim believed in and supported financial aid for students. He would be absolutely tickled about his gift being used to motivate others.”

A native of the Boston area, MacLennan focused his Hamilton studies in French and economics. Following his graduation, he served in the Massachusetts National Guard and worked as a furniture buyer for Jordan Marsh Co. During that time he also earned his M.B.A. in marketing at Boston University. In 1963, MacLennan headed to Chicago, where he established a furniture business, representing Midwest furniture manufacturers for more than 40 years before retiring in 2004.

Financial aid at Hamilton

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A self-described Francophile, MacLennan enjoyed international travel, following the stock market, gardening, attending plays and movies, swimming, and biking. He also maintained a connection to his alma mater, serving on the major gifts committee for the Campaign for the ’90s and as an Annual Fund class gift chair. In 1998, the College began to name the students he supported with his annual gifts MacLennan Scholars, students who demonstrated financial need.

“[Hamilton] gave me a broad background to appreciate and enjoy art, music, and literature, as well as an ability to speak, write, and interact successfully with others in the business world,” he once noted on an alumni survey.

Now, through his generosity, generations of students will have similar opportunities in perpetuity.

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