How a reclusive Texas billionaire took back the biggest-ever donation to a liberal arts college

Tim Goral's picture
Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Centre College is a school with big ambitions. Last year, the college hosted a vice presidential debate, its second since 2000, underscoring Centre’s desire to be “a place where important conversations occur,” as its president wrote to alumni this winter. Its last major fundraising drive was its most successful, raising $170 million between 2002 and 2007, and it has drawn many more millions since then, establishing new scholarships, constructing new buildings, and hiring top faculty.

So when Centre announced in July it had received a $250 million gift in one swoop — the biggest ever for a liberal arts college, and in the league of record donations this year to places like Johns Hopkins and Yale universities — it made major headlines. The money, from a publicity-shy 72-year-old Texas billionaire named Bob Brockman who left Centre after his sophomore year there, would fund 40 full-ride scholarships a year, with 160 students by 2017, under a program named after him.

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