Giving in Honor of the Bicentennial

Donors are celebrating 200 years by investing in the next 200.


Mary Jane Cowles and Dan Laskin

Dan Laskin has spent quite some time thinking about Kenyon’s history over the past year as he worked on the forthcoming "Place and Purpose: Kenyon at 200" book. With the bicentennial on his mind, it seemed only natural that he and his wife, Professor Emerita of French Mary Jane Cowles, decide to make their gift to Kenyon in this historic year.

“Once I started working at Kenyon as a writer and editor,” Laskin said, “I interviewed and wrote about lots of people, especially alumni, who translated their deep bonds with Kenyon — the way Kenyon changed their lives — into generous gifts. And I saw how those gifts made a tangible difference in the lives of students and professors. Especially at a small college, gifts can have an impact.”

After they each retired and drew closer to the new life phase of required minimum distributions and estate planning, “we realized that our IRAs were a great vehicle for making a charitable gift while enjoying tax advantages, both for us and our sons,” they said.

The couple opted to direct their gift to Cowles’ departmental home for more than three decades, Modern Languages and Literatures. “I hope these funds will give the department the freedom to undertake projects such as inviting speakers from other countries visiting the U.S. for a limited time, sponsoring an occasional performance group, or responding to needs for support for students planning study or research abroad,” she said.

“At a time when institutions are eliminating humanities programs and when the ease of technology threatens to cheapen the value of intellectual work, it is important to affirm the value of getting out of one’s bubble, to encounter the art and thought and languages of real human beings.”

While establishing an endowed fund may not be a possibility for every donor, Laskin and Cowles are just two who have chosen to mark 200 years through philanthropy.

Bicentennial Ambassadors

Comprised of alumni award winners and key volunteers, this group was asked to make gifts to launch a series of matching challenges throughout the year to support the Kenyon Fund and operating scholarships (see below). In just the first few months, the response has been enthusiastic, with 300 people giving nearly $1.2 million combined for a matching pool. 

Monthly Matches

Most months this year, the matching funds will be used during flash campaigns the 20th to 24th. These challenges will invite gifts at all levels and offer young alumni in particular the opportunity to make their giving go further.

Class Scholarships

The Class of 1989 is just one group that is using the occasion of their reunion in the bicentennial year to leave a lasting legacy, in recognition of the fact that their connection as a class has only deepened across the decades, regardless of major or team or club. Their scholarship will be a current-use scholarship.

1824 Scholarship

This current-use scholarship will benefit today’s Kenyon students as part of the operating budget, in honor of the bicentennial. Donors interested in this opportunity make a commitment of $40,000 or more payable over four years to cover a student’s four year experience. To learn more, contact Tracey Wilson, director of leadership annual giving.

Other Philanthropy Paths

And then there’s Jon Barsanti ’58, who, in 1982 established an endowed fund as a vehicle to remember Kenyon Trustees and their spouses. He has continued to give to the fund and the fund income has been reinvested each year — growing from around $1,000 to more than $80,000 — and on December 29, 2024, will provide support for general operations.

In addition, the ongoing Our Path Forward to the Bicentennial campaign, which launched publicly in 2018, will conclude on June 30 this year and represents the combined giving of more than 21,000 alumni, faculty, staff, parents, students and others who value the academic excellence at Kenyon.