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$50 million in donations ease financial straits at St. John’s College

SANTA FE, N.M. — Courtesy of two of its board members, St. John’s College has received a $50 million donation that will help ease some of its recent belt-tightening.

The cash donation, with $25 million each coming from Ron Fielding and Warren Spector, is the largest donation ever received by the college — and that refers to each individual donation, not just the total of the two, according to an announcement from the college, which has campuses in Santa Fe and Annapolis, Md.

Together, it equals a little less than one-third of the college’s reported $160 million endowment total prior to the new gifts. Most of the donation, $36 million, will be plowed into the endowment fund, while the remainder will go into operating costs over the next several years, according to Santa Fe President Mark Roosevelt.

St. John's College, with campuses in Santa Fe and Annapolis, Md., has received two donations of $25 million each. (EDDIE MOORE/JOURNAL)

St. John’s College, with campuses in Santa Fe and Annapolis, Md., has received two donations of $25 million each. (EDDIE MOORE/JOURNAL)

“For a small college like us, these are really extraordinary gifts,” Roosevelt said in a phone interview.

Roosevelt added the donation has spurred additional support “and I expect to be able to announce more good news in the near future.”

Both donors are alumni of St. John’s College. Fielding has been a manager of municipal bond funds with Oppenheimer Rochester, formerly known as The Rochester Funds. Spector has been an investment banker.

St. John’s has experienced some cutbacks in the past year, laying off about 30 people to address about $4.5 million of an annual $12 million structural deficit. In recent years, donations that preferably would have been funneled to the endowment fund have been used instead to erase that red ink.

Roosevelt said a review of programs will continue on both campuses to pursue further cost savings. He added that the college’s commitment to “get our own financial condition in shape” helped catalyze the donations.

“Belt-tightening has been painful,” Spector said in the news release. “But the commitment of staff and faculty has given supporters of the college the confidence we are dealing with our challenges.”