$50-Million Roberts Donation to New Gym: Students React

Claremont McKenna announced this morning an unrestricted gift from CMC trustee and alum George R. Roberts '66 P'93 of $50 million. Roberts co-founded Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (K.K.R.), a private equity firm that specializes in leveraged buyouts, with his cousin and fellow CMC alum, Henry Kravis, in 1976. Roberts also founded a non-profit based in San Francisco, CA, called REDF, whose goal is to create job opportunities through venture philanthropy. According to Forbes, his net worth is $3.7 billion as of September 2012.

Roberts' donation pushes President Gann's massive fundraising effort launched in 2008, the Campaign for CMC, past the target of raising $600 million for the school. The Campaign for CMC is the largest fundraising project ever undertaken—and now achieved—by a liberal arts college.

When President Pamela Gann announced her plans to step down as President of CMC last fall, she explained that she intended to leave, among other reasons, upon completion of the Campaign for CMC.

CMC plans to use the generous gift from Roberts to fund a new athletic center, the plans for which have been on the books but kept on hold until the entirety of the funding needed to build it was secured. Roberts' donation will allow the center, which will be called the Roberts Pavilion in his honor, to move forward and the school to take action towards creating it.

The Roberts Pavilion will replace Ducey Gymnasium and revitalize CMC's athletic facilities; it will be more than double the size of Ducey by square footage and include a new gym space, a rock-climbing wall, and a competition gym that can be transformed for use as an auditorium to host visiting speakers. A gallery of the proposed designs can be found on CMC's Flickr Account.

Last spring, Gann addressed CMC's Student Senate and told students that building the new athletic center was her number one priority in terms of long-term projects for the school.

In CMC's press release this morning, Gann expressed her continued enthusiasm for the project and the impact it will have on the school and its athletic programs.

“Our experiences on the field and in the gym bring us together and push us to excel and challenge ourselves," said Gann. "The Roberts Pavilion will enrich the experience of not only student-athletes but also our entire community.”

In an email to the student body today, Gann added, "I want to thank everyone, from our staff in the Advancement Office, to the CMC Trustees, to the faculty and other staff, and to our networks of parents, alumni and friends of the College, for their dedication and support over the past five years in making the Campaign a resounding success and in helping position the College for a spectacular future."

Some students at CMC are equally enthused about the future of the Roberts Pavilion and the success of Gann's fundraising efforts. Katie Lorish '13, one of CMC's Resident Assistants this year, said,  "The completion of CMC's $600 million fundraiser is a huge accomplishment, and is a testament to President Gann and the Board of Trustees' hard work and dedication to the school."

She also praised Roberts for his commitment to CMC; according to Lorish, he "has been instrumental in this effort, and I think I can speak for the entire student body in saying that we are so grateful for these donations."

Roberts' donation is also appreciated by CMC's student athletes. Ryan Driscoll '16, a member of the CMS Softball team, is one such student. Said Driscoll, "the new facility is evidence of CMC's dedication to producing versatile leaders and student athletes as well as its commitment to growing progress in the coming years."

While many are pleased with CMC's use of this donation, some students wonder if Roberts' gift couldn't have been better used for another purpose where improvement is even more urgent.

Asked Mohammad Abdulrahim '15, "Yes, our gym does need to be improved, but is it our priority?" Abdulrahim continued to explain that, "as a former science major, I find that our science buildings need some serious revamping, especially considering the fact that some of my classes were taught in portables. Why not build a science building instead?" Abdulrahim feels that, despite the fact that the sciences are not viewed as a major focus of CMC academics, the number of new students entering as intended science majors should make the administration rethink how it regards the field.

Other reactions are mixed. "I guess its a nice show of confidence after a lackluster year for CMC last year," says senior Hannah Burak '13.

Another reason for curbed enthusiasm among the student body may be the amount of time it will take to construct the Roberts Pavilion. Says Dante Toppo '15, "I'm really excited to enjoy the new gym when I come back for my 10 year reunion. If it's done by then."