Sterling College Sets Fundraising Record: Nourish the Roots Campaign Exceeds $9 Million Goal

aerial view of Sterling College

As faculty gathered to begin a new academic year, Sterling College announced that it has successfully concluded its five-year Nourish the Roots comprehensive campaign by exceeding the original $9 million campaign goal, raising $11.6 million in gifts and pledges. Sterling College is among the smallest colleges in the United States and during the campaign raised more annually for its environmental stewardship mission than colleges and universities that are many times larger.

"We began this campaign with the assertion that Sterling College has an important role to play in higher education and that we believe small colleges can have an impact well beyond what their enrollment might suggest," said Matthew Derr, Sterling's 11th president, who led the campaign. "Thanks to the many people who care about the human relationship with the natural world, today we truly are a small college with a big voice, preparing students for lives devoted to environmental stewardship and the well-being of rural communities."

The public phase of Nourish the Roots was announced in March 2015 with $4.5 million already raised. By the end of the campaign, 1,300 unique donors had committed to 4,584 gifts which includes $643,500 in multi-year pledges and $3 million in estate plan commitments. The College was able to experience such significant success because of its shared values and vision with its donors, including friends of the College with no prior connection to Sterling, who care deeply about the critical issues facing humanity and the need to educate the next generation of environmental stewards.

Access to education for environmental stewards was a major priority of the Nourish the Roots campaign. Nearly 100% of the current student body receives Sterling grant funding. The average institutional grant in 2018-19 is $23,100 and Sterling alumni complete their degree with 50% less loan debt than the national average. "The faculty of the College understand that access to higher education is a challenge, and this campaign has made a Sterling education possible for many of our students," said Dr. Laura Spence, the College's Dean of Academics.

The campaign, which is named for Sterling's historic motto, caps a remarkable time of increased philanthropic success for Sterling. In 2011, before the campaign began, total giving to the College was $518,000. In 2018, Sterling's annual fund and capital campaign goals were exceeded by $500,000, with $1.7 million raised. "We have truly nourished the roots of Sterling College, but more than that we've supported an institution that is preparing graduates who will make our lives richer here in Vermont and in all of the communities in which they live," offered Jonathan Larsen, donor, trustee and past chair.

"Sterling was able to set long-term goals that were both attainable and record-breaking. The College has achieved many accomplishments during my 12 years on the Board of Trustees," said alumnus parent Pete Chehayl, board chair. "A solid foundation has been laid to build on for Sterling's future successes."

The Nourish the Roots campaign was guided and shaped by the College's most recent five-year strategic plan, which prioritized the renovation of key academic spaces, increased campus sustainability, financial aid support and academics. For more information about the campaign's impact on these areas, please visit: