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College of Arts and Sciences

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The Best Homecoming Ever

November 4, 2013

By: Mary Anne Fitzpatrick

Homecoming 2013 could not have been better. The weather was forgiving, the football team launched what we hope is a winning streak, and we were able to showcase the inspiring work of the faculty in the College with a program held in Rutledge Chapel. Two longtime supporters of the College of Arts and Sciences have created a $10 million endowment to support outstanding teaching and research.  USC alumnus Peter McCausland (’71), chairman and chief executive officer of Pennsylvania-based Airgas Inc., and his wife, Bonnie, announced the gift Thursday (Oct. 31) during a homecoming visit to the campus.

The College is home to outstanding scholars and researchers across the arts and sciences: a large number of National Endowment for the Humanities fellows, Guggenheim and American Council of Learned Society award winners, American Association for the Advancement of Science fellows, members of the National Academy of Sciences, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a winner of the National Medal of Science.

A common refrain I hear from these scholars and their colleagues in every department in the College is: We have worked to recruit some of the best young talent in the country to the College and they are living up to our highest expectations in their research and their teaching and mentoring of students.   Others are noticing their contributions.  How can we retain these outstanding young educators and researchers for Carolina?  

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Then I received a call from Peter last November and he told me that he and Bonnie intended to give the College a $10 million Christmas gift. And he asked me to sketch out some ideas for them about how we would like to spend it. Together, we have created a $10 million endowment for the College of Arts and Sciences to retain promising young faculty, launch a visiting scholars program and encourage imaginative teaching and research projects.  Peter, Bonnie and I know that we need to support the magic that happens when the most promising students and the most talented faculty come together. Peter and Bonnie want the new endowment to highlight the continued relevance of the liberal arts to the college experience.

Their support is even more important today as most of us would agree that there has been an increase in the decibel level of criticism of higher education in general and of the liberal arts in particular. And the faith of philanthropists like the McCausland family means even more to us in these times. It gives us a renewed commitment to keep demonstrating the value of what we do. 

After the investiture ceremony at Rutledge Chapel and reception to have the donors meet a number of the faculty, alumni and supporters of the College, President Pastides hosted a dinner for forty in honor of the McCausland family at his home. During the evening, Peter addressed the group and said that what had happened in Rutledge Chapel, honoring the achievements and mentoring of the faculty of arts and sciences, was of far greater import than what happens in William Brice Stadium.

The College is the university at its best. Although you may not have been able to attend the Rutledge event this year, I hope you can take a moment to watch the interviews that showcased the faculty who were honored on this year's program. Enjoy! 


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