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The Power of $10M

by Mark Sullivan

In the procession through the academic quad at Tufts' 151st Commencement in May, James A. Stern, E72, was near the head of the line, which was fitting. The chairman of Tufts' Board of Trustees is one of his alma mater's foremost boosters, and was one of the first to step forward in support of the university's Beyond Boundaries campaign, with a gift of $10 million.

The $10-million gift from Stern and his wife, Jane, of Harrison, N.Y., has been made public now that their son, David, A07, has graduated. The Sterns' gift will underwrite two endowed professorships in the Schools of Arts and Sciences and Engineering while boosting financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students.

"The Sterns' gift speaks to our core mission by directly supporting students and faculty," said Tufts University President Lawrence S. Bacow. "On the student side, nothing is as important as financial aid, and this gift supports both undergraduate and graduate students. At the same time, endowed professorships provide vital support for our extraordinary faculty. This first major gift of the campaign really set the bar for others, and the Board has responded magnificently to the challenge."

Jim Stern, chairman and founder of the Cypress Group, a New York-based private equity firm, exemplifies leadership giving. When the Chronicle of Higher Education this past spring ran a special report on trustee giving, the piece led with Tufts - and a picture of Stern. The Chronicle noted that by the time Tufts' $1.2-billion Beyond Boundaries campaign was announced in November 2006, the university already had raised $615 million in the quiet phase - with about half of those early donations coming from just 39 people: Tufts' Board of Trustees.

The Sterns' $10-million gift set the pace.

Four million dollars from the gift will endow two professorships: the Stern Family Professorship in Engineering, held by David Kaplan, professor and chairman of Biomedical Engineering, and the Lenore Stern Professorship in Humanities and Social Sciences, held by Prof. Mark Richard, professor and chairman of philosophy.

Another $4 million from the gift will benefit undergraduate student financial aid, augmenting the existing Stern Family Endowed Scholarship Fund. And $2 million will create an endowed fund for graduate research fellowships.

The Sterns have been generous supporters of Tufts who have preferred to keep their giving quiet. Their philanthropy during the previous Tufts Tomorrow campaign established the Arthur Stern Professorship in American History, held by Virginia Drachman, and created the Stanton "Bud" Yusem Endowed Scholarship as well as the Stern Family Scholarship Fund for undergraduate students.

Their latest $10-million gift, having given a vital early boost to the Beyond Boundaries campaign, will have continuing impact on scholarship, teaching, and research at Tufts.

"Great students and great faculty make a great university, as President Bacow always says," Jim Stern said. "What could be more important to the mission of Tufts?"

Stern said he hopes to encourage other Tufts alumni to give back likewise.

"I can tell you, I walked out of Tufts an entirely different person than when I walked in," he said. "The diploma I have is a lot more valuable today than it was 35 years ago when I received it. It's very rewarding to help continue that progression. To me, there is no better objective."