From the President

Like most college magazines, ours features the lives and achievements of alumni as well as campus life today. You naturally want to know about your classmates (class notes are the most heavily read section in most alumni magazines) and are interested in how the campus is both the same place and different from the College you experienced. Over the past 20 years, only a few issues of this magazine have focused on fundraising. Most recently, the fall 2015 issue announced the goals, priorities, and successful launch of The Campaign for Sarah Lawrence: Ahead of the Curve.

In my penultimate column and last year as president, I want to speak candidly about the connection between financial resources and our ability to be the best version of the bold, proud, and independent College you remember. Throughout its history, Sarah Lawrence has been, paradoxically, both remarkably ambitious and remarkably under-funded. We have successfully competed for exceptionally smart, curious students and recruited and retained stellar faculty and staff, supported by a fraction of the endowment per student of our peer liberal arts colleges. To make our current position more vivid, I have provided a snapshot of our comparative challenge, based on the most recent data available from the US Department of Education. The chart reports endowment per student, which is a more relevant data point than the absolute size of the endowment pool.

We should be proud that we have stayed true to our core principles despite financial constraints. For more than 80 years, Sarah Lawrence has offered an education rooted in the belief that students should be free to develop their own individuality—a concept that others have imitated but never duplicated, and that continues to be our guiding principle. Our interdisciplinary approach to education has militated against administrative bloat and balkanization; with no departments or elaborate department apparatus, we have been able to funnel our resources where they matter, to the classroom and the student experience.

The College has kept its commitment to offering this unique education to talented students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, including low-income students. The 19 percent of Pell eligible (low-income) students attending Sarah Lawrence is comparable to Pomona’s (18 percent) and exceeds Swarthmore’s (15 percent), institutions with up to 20 times our endowment per student. This “endowment per student” data also indicates what has become increasingly clear to our faculty and staff post-recession: that the College’s financial disadvantage, no matter how creatively managed, challenges our ability to continue to lead. Some painful decisions have been required over the past decade, one consequence of which is that salaries of our teaching faculty are below the median of our peers; and despite their incredible loyalty to their students, colleagues, and the College’s philosophy, we run the risk of losing some of our best.

Last year marked the public launch of The Campaign for Sarah Lawrence: Ahead of the Curve. As of September 2016, we have raised $115 million toward an ambitious $200 million goal. Achieving this goal will ensure that we continue to recruit and retain outstanding faculty, develop innovative programs, and attract and educate many more generations to be fierce and unafraid.

The Campaign focuses on endowment to support students, faculty, and academic programs. And it will provide a vibrant new home for building community: the Barbara Walters Campus Center.

Given what we have been able to accomplish with limited resources, imagine what we will do with an endowment that sustains support of our students, our academic programs, and superb faculty and staff! Our campaign goal for the endowment is $120 million. So far, we have raised $57 million in cash and pledges.

The only major building project in this campaign is the Barbara Walters Campus Center, enabled by the extraordinarily generous lead gift from our alumna, Barbara Walters. As of September, we have raised $20.5 million toward a $35 million goal.

This building is critical to the sustained excellence of our College. Learning at Sarah Lawrence happens around the clock: exploration, connection, and debate flow from classrooms to residence halls, from the library to the lawns. But there is a distinct lack of space for large-scale community activities (we can fit no more than 400 people under one roof) as well as students’ informal socializing and collaborative work. I believe that 20 years from now, our collective community will say, “I can’t imagine what campus life was like without this center,” as has been repeatedly said to me about the Heimbold Visual Arts Center, the Alice Stone Ilchman Science Center, and the Campbell Sports Center.

Achieving these priorities will ensure the College can continue to provide the kind of education that prepares its graduates with the cognitive flexibility, intellectual curiosity, and critical abilities to meet whatever 21st-century surprise is around the corner.

With your enthusiastic participation, Sarah Lawrence will continue to offer an education that sets the standard and is “ahead of the curve.”

Signature of President Karen R. Lawrence

Endowment Market Value and Endowment per Full-Time Equivalent Student: 2013-14

Endowment market value and endowment per full-time equivalent student


Endowment Market Value

FTE Enrollment Fall 2013

Endowment per FTE Student

Source: IPEDS NCES Data Center, School-Reported Data as of 8.22.16





























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