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From the Senior Vice President

Jim ThompsonMarch 11, 2010


The greater the difficulty, the more glory in surmounting it. Skillful pilots gain their reputation from storms and tempests.”
— Epicurus

We are noting warmer and sunnier days here in Rochester, heralding spring’s arrival. I see the possibility of a similar trend emerging in our nation’s economy. In my travels, more and more of the University’s leaders and supporters are expressing guarded optimism concerning a recovery.

As winter departs, I am inspired by the story of John W. Sterling. A Yale alumnus (1864), he died in 1918 during a short but very sharp post-WWI recession. He bequeathed more than $18 million to his alma mater, equivalent to about $250 million today.

In that era, this was the largest gift Yale had ever received. Sterling’s generosity also made history because it was the largest non-founding gift ever made by an individual to a private university. Sterling designated that some portion of the funds be used to create “one magnificent and useful building.” He achieved far more.

His gift financed a construction boom that produced the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, Sterling Hall of Medicine, Sterling Memorial Library, Sterling Law Buildings, Sterling Divinity Quadrangle, Sterling Tower, and the Hall of Graduate Studies. It also established 36 endowed professorships as well as an all important maintenance fund.

John Sterling’s story is tremendous testimony to the fact that philanthropy thrives even in hard times. We are seeing similar examples at the University of Rochester. We are strengthening what is already one of the finest research universities in the world. Thanks to our dedicated alumni, friends, and parents, we continue to make steady progress. This issue offers several stories that reflect unwavering belief in the University’s enduring contributions across generations through a time of adversity and doubt. Here are three highlights:

Spring is again approaching. Nature itself provides new energy and focus, reminding us of the endless possibilities sparked by renewal and growth. We move forward together, knowing the University of Rochester will be made greater by our steadfast commitment and hard work. 


James D. Thompson
Senior Vice President
Chief Advancement Officer


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