John Leslie ’52 spent nearly 40 years as counsel to colleges and universities in fundraising and financial management, and he has seen first-hand how important private support is to the present and long-term health of an academic institution. Particularly crucial are funds that allow college presidents flexibility in dealing with everyday needs.
“My wife Audrey and I are firm believers in the case that annual funds make for the importance of unrestricted gifts,” Leslie says. “But, further, academically attuned presidents know where and when a rapid insertion of seed money can make a tremendous difference in the long-term viability of the institution.”
Concerned about the current economic climate’s effect on William and Mary, the Leslies recently helped supply such seed money through a gift to the President’s Fund for Excellence. Their intent was to provide funds for President Taylor Reveley’s discretion that might save a program from getting cut or reduced because of recently imposed, state-mandated budget reductions.
“During my career, I observed that institutions whose presidents had discretionary funds available were able to move more quickly and decisively than others, even those institutions with higher gift income, since most gifts are purpose directed,” Leslie says. “During times of financial stringency, unrestricted, discretionary money is worth its weight in gold.”
Longtime supporters of the College, the Leslies also agree with President Reveley about the importance of annual giving, which helps take care of such needs as financial aid, faculty research and development, student research, new equipment and special programs.
As the College works to protect its core mission during difficult economic times, the Leslies are glad to provide funds that preserve programs important to William and Mary students. “We hope that our example might inspire others to see the merits of presidential discretionary endowments,” Leslie says.