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The Dartmouth
May 27, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Centennial Circle of Dartmouth Alumnae donate $12.5 million to the College financial aid fund

The donation to the Dartmouth College Fund continues the organization’s mission to support Dartmouth students.

20240406 Centennial Circle 10th Anniversary 1961.jpg

On April 7, the Centennial Circle of Dartmouth Alumnae — an organization of alumnae who have donated over $100,000 each to the College — presented a $12.5 million donation to College President Sian Leah Beilock to commemorate the organization’s 10th anniversary, according to Dartmouth College Fund and special fundraising initiatives executive director Sylvia Racca. 

Two-hundred-twenty members of the “Circle,” as the group of alumnae commonly calls itself, contributed to the donation, according to Racca. She added that fundraising mainly involved word-of-mouth conversations and minimal direct marketing through social media. 

Catherine Craighead Briggs ’88 founded the Circle in 2014 with the goal of gathering 100 women to donate $100,000 each for the 100th anniversary of the Dartmouth College Fund — a collection of donations to the College that contributes to financial aid, according to Racca. The Circle has been a major donor to the Dartmouth College Fund since its founding, Racca said.

According to Racca, within a year of the Circle’s founding, 114 women joined the group and donated nearly $18 million to financial aid. In the decade since, the Circle has expanded to 334 members and has become one of the largest movements of women’s philanthropy, she added.

“[The Circle is] pretty much [the] national gold standard for women’s philanthropy in higher education in the United States,” Racca said. “It’s a really great signature of [the] Dartmouth alumnae community.” 

The Circle hosted members on the weekend of April 6 to celebrate 10 years of contribution and present this year’s donations to the College. During the April 7 event, Racca said Beilock announced her own membership in the Circle — meaning she donated $100,000 to the Fund.. 

“We live in a world where ability is far more widespread than opportunity, and to make a Dartmouth education possible for the most talented scholars and leaders, we need to level the financial playing field,” Beilock said at the event, according to Dartmouth News.

Craighead Briggs said she was “touched” by Beilock’s announcement.

“It’s a real honor that President Beilock is joining the Centennial Circle,” Craighead Briggs said. “It’s a real testament to this community of women. She’s our first female president, so I can’t think of a more fitting gift.” 

Racca said she is “really proud” to have witnessed the Circle’s growth, which she said has been driven by alumnae. 

“They’re the ones who have these ideas, year after year,” Racca said. “They’re the ones that have been driving it forward and getting new members to join the Circle.”

Briggs also said the alumnae community has seen increased solidarity as a result of the Circle. 

“They are a group of amazing women who are diverse in their backgrounds and their professions, but they share a passion for unrestricted financial aid,” she said. “I think it’s very ‘Dartmouth’ that we have done this. We created it, and we’re keeping it vibrant and moving forward and always growing.” 

Circle expansion committee member Laurie Shapiro ’95 said the Circle also supports students’ educational opportunities through the Circle’s First-Gen Mentoring Program, which pairs first-generation students with Circle mentors.

“We’ve met lots of students who have benefited from the financial aid from the Centennial Circle, and everybody’s just incredibly impressive,” Shapiro said. “To create opportunities for others is wonderful. That connection is that difference, that appreciation. Many of us have been in a similar spot, so to be able to give back is just amazing.” 

Craighead Briggs said the Circle will continue to remain committed to providing financial relief to students. 

“Our hope is that when women’s affinity and capacity align, we can provide financial aid to students of all backgrounds,” Craighead Briggs said.