Barnard Finances: A Note

Note on Barnard’s Early Financial History

Barnard College opened in  1889 in a rented brownstone on 343 Madison Avenue and 45th Street without a designated patron,  wealthy founder, property holdings  or endowment.  Columbia College, located four blocks north, had since the 1850s been well-endowed with holdings in Manhattan real estate;  consisted of the School of Arts (the men’s undergraduate college), the School of Mines and a law school located further downtown.  Would absorb the College of Physicians and Surgeons in the early 1890s

Initial Barnard business plan required all expenses to be covered by tuition ($150.00).

First substantial financial challenge was to acquire the financial resources to pay for the move from rented space on Madison Avenue to Columbia’s new site on Morningside Heights  in 1897.

Columbia  trustees not responsible for Barnard’s finances; several original Barnard trustees persons of wealth,  but few with Barnard as their principal philanthropic project.
Included J.P. Morgan; John D. Rockefeller; Mrs. Seth Low; Mrs Harriman; Mrs. Joseph Choate

Barnard board had trustee lawyers and ministers who could direct wealthy women they advised to support Barnard.

Attorney Frederick Wait  secured building gift of $100,000 from Mary E. (Mrs. Van Wyck) Brinckerhoff in 1892, conditioned on other monies coming in to acquire land adjacent to planned Columbia campus on Morningside..
The Rev. Arthur Brooks encouraged his parishioner Elizabeth Milbank Anderson to commit another $100,000 and for Mrs.Josiah Fiske another $140,000

Barnard College attracted some support from earlier donors  to Columbia, including
Seth Low/Havemeyer/Daniel Fayerweather/John S. Kennedy/Horace Carpentier

Carpentier, along with Mrs. Anderson, early Barnard’s most generous and frequent donors.

Barnard also  had in the book publisher George Plimpton, the trustee treasurer,  a very well connected and persuasive fundraiser. Instrumental in securing Carpentier’s support.

Among Plimpton’s  other successful solicitations was a gift of $500,000 from Jacob Schiff in 1916 to commemorate his fifty  years in America to underwrite a Students’ Hall. later renamed Barnard Hall.

“Quarter Century Fund,” a fundraising effort launched in 1911 to celebrate Barnard’s 25th birthday  in 1914 by raising  $1,000,000;  target amount not  in hand until 1920.

Dean Virginia Gildersleeve not an active fundraiser; left the job to Plimpton. She may also have caused some would-be Jewish benefactors of Barnard to await her retirement to do so.

Annual fund directed at alumnae initiated in 1934.


Early Barnard Donors, 1889 – 1920

Note last updated: December 20, 2013
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