Profiles in Giving — Larry Lepard ’79
First-year students at Colgate receive plenty of exciting mail. Welcome letters, medical questionnaires, reading selections, registration forms, and room assignments all hit mailboxes between May and August.

This year, 35 students participating in the OUS Summer Institute — an intensive program to promote success among new undergrads from disadvantaged backgrounds — received a particularly thrilling piece of paper. It was a note from French professor and OUS academic director Hélène Julien informing them that they would each be issued a Macbook laptop for use throughout the 2010–2011 academic year.

The computers came courtesy of Presidents’ Club member Larry Lepard ’79, who provided $50,000 for the machines, cases, external flash drives, and insurance.

“I’ve been lucky,” says Larry. In turn, he consistently looks for ways to share that good fortune with others. Sometimes, he makes gifts to the Colgate Annual Fund. In this instance, he directed his support toward a particular initiative tailored to meet a specific need.

The Summer Institute is a must-pass crash course in college communication, partnered with a healthy dose of the liberal arts. Students take two full classes in five weeks, shouldering the same workload they will carry during a standard semester. Computers have become an essential part of the learning process, but enrollees rarely have the resources to make such a purchase.

“The laptops made a dramatic and meaningful impact on the summer,” said Biology Professor Frank Frey. Institute instructors changed their curricula and integrated technology into the classroom experience because they knew all of their students would have the proper equipment.

When Frank assigned a final paper on plant biology, he requested that the facts be woven into fiction — that his students tell their classmates stories that teach. They brought their laptops into the classroom and used them for on-the-spot consultation and in-class exercises.

During mandatory evening study hours, students could fan out to their favorite locations for privacy or group collaboration as necessary. Professors circulated among them to offer advice. “The gift will facilitate the transition into the semester, ensuring the students continue to be successful,” said Hélène.

That kind of feedback has made the gift rewarding for the gift-giver, too. “You can see the needle move based on whether you’re successful or not,” said Larry. The program has moved the needle so far that the university is seeking ways to expand it and allow students to keep their laptops through four full years at Colgate.

For more information on participating in the OUS laptop initiative, contact Murray Decock, vice president for institutional advancement, at mdecock@colgate.edu.