To help double need-based scholarships, the University of Maryland is getting a $220 million gift from the foundation of a billionaire alumnus whose own education was made possible by a scholarship.
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The university announced the gift from the A. James and Alice B. Clark Foundation on Wednesday. Clark, who hitchhiked from home because he couldn't afford room and board, and went on to become a leader of one of the nation's largest private construction companies.
"It's truly transformational for the University of Maryland, and the whole idea of this investment is to build the future, and building the future means dramatically expanding access and opportunity for students to get an education at the University of Maryland," said Wallace Loh, the university's president.
It will be the sixth-largest private gift to a public university in the nation, according to rankings of major private gifts to higher education by the Chronicle for Higher Education, which has ranked gifts that have been made over the past 50 years. It is also the largest gift ever made to the University of Maryland.
Courtney Clark Pastrick, Clark's daughter who chairs the foundation's board, said about 41 percent of the gift will go toward financial need. There will be several different scholarships, including ones specifically for engineering students and ones for other majors. There also will be scholarships for students who transfer from community colleges to study at the engineering school, which is named after Clark, who graduated in 1950 and died in 2015.
Pastrick said the overall goal is to double the amount of students at the university receiving financial aid.
"It's all about access and affordability," Pastrick said. "It is all need based, and that's really the underlying mission of this gift: to provide access and opportunity for students that otherwise wouldn't be able to go."
The money also will be used to build state-of-the-art facilities to focus on innovation, where students, faculty and alumni will work together with an eye toward creating new companies and jobs. Loh described it as an innovation incubator that will bring together people from different disciplines.
"It's all about innovation, economic development, job creation — moving the economy of Maryland forward," Loh said.
The gift also will be used to create graduate fellowships and faculty chairs.
Clark was known as the "King of Concrete." His company, Clark Enterprises, built sports stadiums and convention centers across the country. The company also built Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore and several high-profile buildings in the nation's capital, including FedEx Field, Nationals Park, Verizon Center and more than 20 Metro stations.