CCS Bard Receives $50 Million to Create Endowment
August 27th, 2021
The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard), has received a “transformative” $50 million gift in honor of its thirtieth anniversary. The paired donations—$25 million from the Marieluise Hessel Foundation and a matching $25 million from billionaire investor George Soros—were received as part of the college’s ambitious $1 billion endowment fund drive, launched earlier this year. Soros in April had promised the college $500 million if it matched that amount through donations within five years; to date, the campaign has raised nearly $800 million.
“This gift from the Marieluise Hessel Foundation marks a milestone in the thirty-year history of CCS Bard,” said Tom Eccles, the college’s executive director of the Center for Curatorial Studies and the founding director of the Hessel Museum of Art. “Above all, it is a gift to the future.”
The Hessel Foundation in the late 1980s entrusted its collection of contemporary art to Bard’s care, allowing the college—located in Annandale-on-Hudson, New York—to create CCS Bard, the first curatorial school in the nation, in 1990. In the ensuing years, the foundation continued to support CCS Bard, funding the 2006 construction of the Hessel Museum of Art and the 2015 expansion of the library, special collections, and archives, and enabling the center to offer financial aid to 90 percent of incoming students. The collection at CCS Bard has grown to comprise roughly 2,000 works and is considered to be one of the best held on a university campus.
The Art Newspaper reports that Bard’s endowment drive comes in response to the 2016 downgrading by Moody’s Investor Service of Bard to junk status, owing to the institution’s increased reliance on a small donor pool and on funding borrowed from its endowment, as cash declined. After Soros announced his matching gift in April, Moody’s upgraded its outlook on Bard from negative to stable, but its bond rating still sits at the B1 junk level.
“This is the most significant gift we have ever received and means that we can both address the present and plan expansively for the future,” Eccles told TAN, citing the gift as “an incredible achievement for a liberal arts college during a time where there’s precarity around visual art programs in the US and around the world, which are facing enormous challenges with reductions in funding and putting the burden on students and staff. It’s a remarkable place to be at this present moment.”