Vote of Confidence, Call to Action

Jim Chambers '78 signs the agreement for his $1 million gift to Dickinson as interim President Neil Weissman and President-elect Margee Ensign look on.

Jim Chambers '78 signs the agreement for his $1 million gift to Dickinson as interim President Neil Weissman and President-elect Margee Ensign look on.

Dickinson Receives $1 Million Gift to Support Scholarships and Historic Preservation

by MaryAlice Bitts-Jackson

Dickinson recently received a $1 million gift commitment from James D. Chambers '78 and his wife, Niecy Armstrong Chambers, as a statement of confidence in and excitement about the future of the college. The gift is also intended to serve as a challenge to fellow alumni to step up their support for Dickinson.

“We knew it was the right time to invest in the enormous momentum and exciting future that awaits Dickinson College,” said Chambers, a member of the Board of Trustees and chair of the board’s Advancement Committee. “I have never been more proud to be a Dickinsonian. Neil Weissman's leadership as interim president has been outstanding, the senior leadership team as well as our dedicated and impressive faculty have the college on an upward trajectory, and the appointment of Margee Ensign as the college's next president bodes well for the future. Dr. Ensign is an outstanding leader committed to building on our strengths of providing a globally focused, useful liberal-arts education.”

The funds will be used to support the John Robert Paul Brock Scholarship that Chambers and his wife established in 2009 in honor of Dickinson’s first-known African-American graduate, and to support the preservation of historic campus buildings. Additionally, the Chambers’ gift will establish a Dickinson Fund Scholarship in part to inspire others to support scholarships and financial aid at Dickinson. Dickinson Fund Scholarships allow donors to establish named scholarships at the college with annual gifts totaling $25,000 over five years.

Chambers led the national search for Dickinson’s 29th president and, in February, the committee recommended and the board appointed Ensign, a pioneering leader in global higher education and an internationally recognized scholar. She will begin July 1.

“Dickinson is very fortunate to count Jim and Niecy among its most ardent supporters. Jim sets an inspiring example through his philanthropic commitment, dedicated service and inspiring leadership in the decades since he was a student here,” said Kirk Swenson, vice president for college advancement. “This is a thoughtful gift at a pivotal time for the college and helps position Dickinson to educate more highly qualified students—regardless of their financial means.  We need more Dickinsonians to follow the Chambers’ example and become partners in Dickinson’s bright future.”

Chambers recalls his time at Dickinson as transformational. Studying abroad in Bologna for a year gave him the global sensibility to forge a successful career in international business management.

“Dickinsonians aren’t passive,” said Chambers. “We are active thinkers and doers, and we are engaged citizens. I want to make sure this incredibly useful education that teaches students to look at an issue from all angles and make connections in innovative ways is available to any student with the potential to excel here and in the wider world. We need more critical thinkers. We need more Dickinsonians.”

Chambers also hopes that his gift will inspire other alumni to increase their support of the college. Chairing the board's Presidential Search Committee, he saw firsthand the energy and passion Dickinsonians around the globe put into Ensign's selection, and he wants to see that carry over into alumni giving.

"During this process, I saw just how deeply the wider community of alumni care for their alma mater," he explained. "As a community, we all need to take this passion and momentum and carry it forward into the way we support Dickinson financially. The college has a wonderful group of loyal and generous supporters, but we need more. Dickinson's future is bright, and there are plenty of reasons to be optimistic, but for our college to truly live up to its potential—the potential Benjamin Rush had in mind when he established Dickinson's revolutionary mission—it will take all of us."

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Published May 9, 2017