Unprecedented gift to change future of financial aid

Caroline Fassett and Elizabeth Worthington, News Editor and Assistant News Editor

The last time that Bob and Doris Malesardi visited the University was this past October. It was then that University President John Bravman pitched to them the idea that their $20 million pledge, dedicated wholly to supporting financial aid, be commemorated by renaming the Academic Quadrangle in their honor.

“We walked around, and Bob lived in Roberts Quad—then called Old Main—as a first-year student,”  Bravman said of their visit. “Then we walked up there, and of course Carnegie still had a fence around it. But, I could just tell, looking at him, looking around, I just tried to imagine what was going through his mind. He instantly knew where he was. He was very thoughtful and immersed in emotion. You could see someone who has lived a long and happy life.”

Bravman said that he spoke to the Malesardis about several different ways through which they could best leave their legacy on the University, and this was the one that resonated with them the most.

“For something of this magnitude, we really, rightfully, wanted to signify [the pledge] powerfully to the world, for anyone who visits, ultimately even more than something like a building [would]. When these buildings come down, other buildings will be built in their spot,” Bravman said.

Bob Malesardi ’45 enrolled in the University at the age of 16. Before graduating, he left the school to fight with the United States in World War II, eventually earning his degree in accounting after returning from the war and deciding to finish up his studies back in Lewisburg. A former trustee with three daughters who also attended the University, Malesardi has previously contributed gifts that have supported scholarships and the Ellen Clarke Bertrand Library. His most recent endowment is a singular event in University history—the largest gift the school has received thus far.

“For me, the most important part [of the pledge] is that it went towards financial aid. That’s one of the greatest ways that we can expand the pool from which the University draws students from. I’m here because of a scholarship, and that’s the only reason why I’m here,” Bucknell Student Government President Mark Merino ’17 said.

Bravman said that he couldn’t have imagined the pledge being donated towards a better cause.

“A large gift would typically go for an endowment in some area, like a building, or to name professorships. Those are often where big gifts go. And to get an endowment increment like this, for financial aid, is a tremendous thing. And it is forever.”

Vice President of Enrollment Management Bill Conley expressed his hope that the generosity of the gift—which pushed the total raised in the current capital “We Do” campaign close to $400 million, just $100 million shy of the targeted amount—will encourage others, particularly alumni, to also contribute to the University.

“Maybe not as much as $20 million, but every bit helps,” Conley said.

Scott Rosevear, Vice President of Development & Alumni Relations, said that the University’s endowment for financial aid will increase by $20 million upon Malesardi’s passing. However, he said that details are being worked out in the form of a matching-gift program, in which “endowed scholarships established over the next few years would ultimately be matched with Malesardi funds flowing into their own scholarship funds.” Such a program ultimately encourages other alumni to engage in philanthropic acts that benefit the University.

Bravman said that the pledge represents “a powerful sentiment that there is support for our University” and that it “should enable all of us, and that should also signal that there are people out there who love this University very, very deeply.”

Merino says that the student body should be very excited about the endowment because “[i]t can open the doors for what alumni are expected to do, and how they feel they should contribute to the University. This is an amazing pledge, and [the Malesardis are] an amazing family.”

“An endowment is a forever gift. It truly is forever. We are not celebrating ‘here’s a $20 million check, go build a building.’ It’s a forever gift, and that is really powerful,” Bravman said. “It reminds us that things change. That things have to change. [With the endowment] we are not building buildings or changing things physically, but [Malesardi] is insuring our continuity in the most meaningful way possible.”

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