Announcements, News

Middlebury has received a bequest of $40 million for unrestricted endowment from a member of the Class of 1955 who said he believed in the power of a Middlebury education to address the challenges facing society.

In his last will and testament leaving his estate to the College, M. Brooks Michel called education the solution to the world’s problems. His is the largest bequest ever made to Middlebury and the second largest donation in Middlebury history.

“A gift of this magnitude to endowment has a profound impact on an institution over generations. We are grateful for Brooks’s faith in what Middlebury people from all walks of life can collectively accomplish,” said President Laurie L. Patton. “Brooks Michel’s vision aligns with Middlebury’s mission ‘to prepare students to lead engaged, consequential, and creative lives, contribute to their communities, and address the world’s most challenging problems.’ By being true to this essential educational mandate, all of Middlebury—students, staff, faculty, and alumni—earned this bequest.”

The endowment provides a permanent source of support for students, faculty, and programs, since the principal is conserved and a portion of the earnings is spent each year. While current-use gifts support the institution’s immediate needs, the endowment ensures long-term sustainability.

Michel’s life was in and of itself an example of an extraordinary Middlebury career. A Spanish major, Michel spent his sophomore and junior years at the Middlebury School Abroad in Madrid and received a post-graduate certificate from the Université Paris-Sorbonne. He worked as an English teacher in Bogotá, Colombia, before joining the U.S. Information Agency, where he was stationed in Panama and Venezuela. In 1965, he embarked on what would become a decades-long career as a simultaneous interpreter with fluencies in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese. Over the years, he completed a multitude of corporate and governmental assignments in 29 countries and 49 states, including with the United Nations, the State Department, and the Organization of American States.

Michel’s bequest is the largest gift to date to For Every Future: The Campaign for Middlebury, bringing the total raised to $440 million toward a goal of $600 million. “We anticipate that a quarter of our $600-million goal will come from bequests and planned gifts, such as a charitable lead unitrust or life-income gift,” said Dan Courcey, vice president for Advancement. “They are one key way that someone who feels connected to Middlebury and believes in the value of a liberal arts and sciences education can make a difference.”

Michel’s connection to Middlebury dates to 1896, when the first member of his family graduated from the College. His great-uncle, Charles Andrew Munroe, Class of 1896, a financier and public utilities executive, served as a trustee of the College from 1929 to 1940 and made the construction of Munroe Hall possible through a gift of $150,000 in 1939. Michel’s grandfather, Theodore Hapgood Munroe, graduated from Middlebury in 1900.

Michel’s is the latest in a long line of estate gifts dating back to Gamaliel Painter, who left the College a bequest of $13,000 in 1819.

“Estate gifts have been key to Middlebury’s growth and evolution,” Courcey said. “For example, James J. Jermain, who graduated in 1828, just 10 years after Painter’s death, left $45,000 to Middlebury in 1901 to establish the James B. Jermain Professorship of Political Economy, which has supported a faculty member ever since, and today is held by economist Jeffrey Carpenter.” 

In 2011, a bequest from Jan Borgia, Class of 1968, funded scholarship aid to graduate students in the Spanish School, Courcey noted. Last year, 35 students received aid from the fund to attend Language Schools.

“Brooks Michel’s extraordinary bequest demonstrates the deep connections and the powerful, lasting impact a Middlebury education has on our alumni. And, in turn, we experience every day how alumni can have a powerful, lasting impact on future generations of students,” said Courcey.