Bahls announces largest donation in school history

Charlie Roiland

On Wednesday, April 6 at noon President Steve Bahls announced that the college received a 40 million dollar donation, the largest in school history. 

This generous donation came from Murry Gerber, Augustana alumni of the class of 1975, who funded the Gerber Center for Student Life. Gerber was a first generation college student, and he designated his donation to be used to aid first generation students and those who come from low income families.

After his time at Augustana, Gerber went on to receive his master’s in geology at the University of Illinois before beginning his work in the oil industry at Shell Oil. Eventually, Gerber became the CEO of EQT Corporation, an energy company in Pennsylvania. Now retired, Gerber serves on the Augustana College Board of Trustees while making several generous donations to the college, including having funded the Gerber Center for Student Life.

Sophomore Tamara Sneddon, a first-generation college student herself, said she was elated upon hearing the news. “I’m gonna be honest, I cried,” she said. “Hearing that a generous donor donated such an incredible fund towards students exactly like me made me really emotional.” 

For many first-generation students and those from low-income households, affording college in general, much less a private liberal arts college like Augustana, can be extremely challenging. Starting with those who enroll as first-year students in the fall of 2023, the 40 million dollar donation will be used to meet 100 percent of needed financial aid for these students. 

Upon hearing this news, sophomore Corine Hamilton said she was pleasantly surprised. “40 million dollars seems like a lot,” she said. “Gerber’s generosity is really appreciated, especially because I personally benefit from scholarships.”

Although the majority of people in attendance at the announcement reacted similarly to Sneddon and Hamilton, some had mixed feelings in regards to how the money is being used.

Antoine Smith Sr., Rock Island community member and acquaintance of Augustana faculty members, believes that this donation is amazing, but only to an extent.

“You have to go a little bit deeper and be empathetic and see the struggles [of students from low-income households],” he said. “I would like to see more planning, like really unfolding it and showing all the stepping stones to get from point A to point B.”

The donation will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to 40 million dollars, which will allow a total of 80 million dollars to be contributed to Augustana’s funding.