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New UConn leader donates $100,000 to launch scholarships

President hopes to encourage contributions

By Stephanie Reitz
Associated Press / July 7, 2011

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HARTFORD - The University of Connecticut’s new president and her husband are donating $100,000 of their own money to launch a scholarship program, saying they want to help needy UConn students and hope to highlight how important philanthropy is to the school’s future.

Susan Herbst and her husband, marketing consultant Douglas Hughes, are giving the gift as part of UConn’s campaign to raise $600 million by 2014, UConn officials announced yesterday. It has raised about $277 million so far.

Herbst, 48, who started her job three weeks ago, said she and her husband are pleased to join other donors to help students who need financial help.

They also hope the gift helps other potential donors recognize how important philanthropy is to the future of UConn and other public universities, many of which are struggling to keep tuition rates reasonable and avoid deep cuts despite tight state budgets.

“In these difficult times, UConn desperately needs increased private funding of student scholarships, faculty research, and building projects in order to become the top flagship university the state of Connecticut and its citizens deserve,’’ Herbst said.

Herbst came to Connecticut from her previous job as executive vice chancellor of the University System of Georgia. Her annual UConn salary is $500,000, of which $145,000 is paid by the UConn Foundation, which raises money for the university.

Lawrence McHugh, chairman of the university’s board of trustees, said he was overwhelmed by news of the $100,000 donation.

“That’s a tremendous commitment for President Herbst to make to the university,’’ he said. “It just reinforces the fact that we made a wise choice in hiring her. This is a great message to get out to all of UConn’s supporters and the state of Connecticut.’’

The new Susan Herbst and Douglas Hughes Family Scholarship in the Humanities will be awarded each year to students in UConn’s School of Fine Arts or the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. The exact amounts have yet to be determined, but it will be based on academic achievement and need, and likely start in 2012.

“Now, more than ever, we need our young people to ask the big questions - about justice, morality, beauty, and happiness, to guide daily life,’’ Herbst said. “The humanities inspire us and help us to figure out what truly matters.’’

The $100,000 will serve as seed money to launch the scholarship fund, to which other donors will also be able to contribute.

Governor Dannel P. Malloy said yesterday that Herbst’s donation underscores the commitment she and her family have made to UConn and the state.

“This gift, coming so quickly after she assumed office, sends a strong signal to future donors,’’ Malloy said. “She has set an auspicious and selfless example, and I join her in urging others to support the University of Connecticut.’’

Her donation is being given as part of the university’s fund-raising effort, “Our University. Our Moment. The Campaign for UConn.’’ The university kicked off that effort, the largest in its history, in 2009.