Endowing the Future of Roanoke

December 22, 2015

In planning for the future of Roanoke College, we’ve taken a hard look at what we do well—what separates Roanoke from other liberal arts colleges around the country. It comes down to this: With our strong mentoring culture, our faculty who love to teach, the wealth of opportunities we offer for first-hand learning, and a highly engaged alumni network, most students who come here find a passion, dig deeply into it, and are ready to go out into the world and live their passion when they graduate.

Looking forward, we want to strengthen this claim. That will mean investing in faculty to expand the breadth of what we teach and the quality of our teaching. It will require new equipment and new facilities, new software and new programs. It will mean increasing opportunities for first-hand learning through student research, internships, service work, study away and creative projects.

All of these investments must be made while working to keep a Roanoke education affordable for students each year, regardless of their financial means. Our diverse student body has grown up in small towns and big cities; they’re children of executives and first-generation immigrants. This mix is key to the Roanoke experience. Living, learning and working with different people opens minds, broadens perspectives, teaches empathy—qualities the world needs in its leaders.

Delivering on the promise to help all Roanoke students find, build and live their passion—today, and for generations to come—requires that the Roanoke endowment grow significantly. We deliver an education today equal to that found in the top liberal arts colleges in America. To compete successfully with them for the best faculty and students, we must have the resources to support our effort.

What is an endowment, and how does it work?

 A college endowment is made up of funds donated to provide support for the school’s mission in perpetuity. Like most colleges, Roanoke’s endowment consists of a number of separately managed funds, many with purposes specified by the donors—such as scholarships or endowed chairs—and others with unrestricted purpose, which allow the College the flexibility to address needs as they arise.

With an eye to the future, these endowments are carefully invested, with a portion of each year’s return reinvested to assure spending parity, regardless of inflation. With a conservatively managed portfolio, the typical spendable return each year is about 5 percent.

To combat the normal ups and downs of the stock market, our investment managers work with a rolling three-year average return. When the market is up, funds beyond the average are set aside for use when returns are below average. In severe downturns, spending may be curtailed to protect the principal.

How large is our endowment, and how does it compare to our peers?

Roanoke’s current invested endowment would rank about 130 among private liberal arts colleges. However, a Roanoke education, in terms of class size, quality of teaching, innovative programming and real-world learning experiences, is better compared to schools with rankings in the top 100 schools that have endowments double and triple ours. To provide quality education on par with these schools and compete for top-notch students, we need to add at least $100 million to our current endowment.

What have others endowed, and how have they benefited Maroons?

Over the years, thousands of alumni, parents, friends and foundations have contributed to our endowment. Restricted endowments have included funding for many important facets of the College’s operations, such as scholarships, programs, faculty development and experiential learning opportunities.

Examples include The Harry J. Breithaupt endowment, which has provided annual awards for Roanoke students who’ve demonstrated excellence in English, history and political science since 2000; The Henry H. Fowler Public Lecture Series, set up in 1983 through an endowment fund in honor of former U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Henry H Fowler ’29; and The Virgil L. Frantz and Wanda Frantz Elliot Endowment, which provides support for faculty and students.

How does an endowment benefit donors?

 An endowment is more than an important contribution to the College today, it’s a legacy you create that will give for generations to come. If you choose to create a restricted endowment, you can fund aspects of the College’s work in which you strongly believe.  Many who set up endowments are recognizing a transformative experience they had at Roanoke, assuring others will have the same experience in the future.


If you are interested in supporting our general endowment fund, or setting up your own restricted fund, please contact Vice President of Resource Development Connie Carmack at (540) 375-2231.