Just more than a decade ago, Westminster College, a small, four-year liberal arts school and a Salt Lake fixture since 1875, was on the edge of collapse. Not only was it deeply in debt, but it also had a decaying campus, a dwindling student body, insufficient cash flow and severe management problems.
Today, the school is recovering its financial health, the campus is being renovated, there is a new downtown center and the number of students has nearly doubled to 2,100.Many people have played a significant role in this remarkable recovery. But none have given bigger support than Bill and Vieve Gore of Newark, Del. The latest sign of that support was made this week when Mrs. Gore gave $7 million to the school.
The sheer size of the gift can be appreciated from the fact that it is the largest single donation ever made to any Utah college, although Westminster is nearly 20 times smaller than some of the others.
The $7 million gift is only the most recent help from the Gore family for Westminster College. While the school was struggling to keep its doors open in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the Gores made a number of large, often anonymous donations. They also financed the business building on campus that carries the Gore name. Mrs. Gore and her daughter, Ginger Giovale, Flagstaff, Ariz., chairman of the college board of trustees, each gave $1 million as part of a campaign to increase the school's endowment fund.
The Gores started a company in the basement of their Delaware home in 1958 and it grew into an international firm providing hundreds of uses for the chemical commonly known as Teflon. When Bill Gore died four years ago, his widow decided to concentrate her charitable contributions on Westminster because of her family's close ties to the school.
Bill Gore was a member of the Westminster Class of '33. His mother was a Westminster alumna. Daughter Ginger was a member of the Class of '65 and her son, Danny, now attends the school.
Westminster's future looks bright, the student body - a mix of younger students and older people returning to campus to continue their education - continues to grow, and the school is acquiring a reputation for both quality and the personal attention possible on a small campus.
Salt Lake Valley is richer academically and socially because of Westminster College, and all citizens owe thanks to the Gores for helping to secure its future.