I was surprised to read in the article on the endowment that alumni were reluctant to go on record as to why they have ceased to give. I am very happy to go on record.
I chaired the Class of 1977’s 25th reunion major gifts campaign. I was proudest of Princeton years ago when it challenged alumni to grow the endowment to enable loans-free admissions. The nadir came during COVID, when Princeton effectively charged full tuition despite closing the campus. I had thought one use of the endowment would be for emergencies exactly like this one. But no, I am informed the endowment must always grow, not only from the investment returns on its huge base, but also through additional alumni donations. Is it reasonable to believe that if President Eisgruber ’83 finds something new that he would like to build, that the largest endowment per student in the country (by far) may not be sufficient to fund it?
I don’t think Malcolm Gladwell had his tongue in his cheek when he wrote about the Princeton endowment — I think it was pointed straight at Nassau Hall.
I believe that future appeals for alumni support will need to be factually and rationally based, rather than tugging on emotional bonds and creating a false competition with past results.