Morgan grants still suspended
- Published: May 21, 2015
Last week’s sobering announcement that Antioch College’s first long-term president, Mark Roosevelt, will leave at the end of his five-year contract in December was buoyed by the simultaneous promise of a $6 million gift over five years from the Morgan Family Foundation.
For the college, the continuing support from the Morgan Foundation demonstrates confidence in the progress the college has made in laying the groundwork for a successful future. Last week Morgan Family Foundation Executive Director Lori Kuhn spoke about the board’s decision to approve the largest single grant it has awarded since its inception in 2003. Foundation Trustee Lee Morgan, who is also an Antioch College trustee, abstained from both the discussion and the vote on the matter.
“The incredible progress [the college] has made in less than five years was best summed up by Nick Boutis, who said four years ago the college had no students, no faculty, no staff, no functional buildings, no president — now all that’s been accomplished, plus an easement on the Glen and $80 million raised,” Kuhn said of the gift, which is the largest the college has received since its 2009 independence from Antioch University. “The fact that they’re on the fast track to accreditation is a testament to how well they’ve done their job; and we thought, gosh, this, of all times, is when we have to demonstrate that we’re fully behind this effort.”
The Morgan Foundation’s grant to the college will have an impact on local nonprofit groups. As the foundation did in 2012 when it donated $2.875 million over three years to the college and suspended grants to other Yellow Springs groups during that period, the Morgan grant suspension for village groups will be extended another five years. As in the past, the foundation will continue to give to other communities, largely in the St. Cloud, Minn. area, where Creative Memories, the modern iteration of the family’s original business, Antioch Bookplate, still operates. Before 2012, the foundation was giving about $1 million a year to Yellow Springs and Miami Valley nonprofits.
“It’s regrettable, but we felt like having a healthy, accredited and even more robust and flourishing Antioch College would have all kinds of benefits and might also benefit other organizations in town,” Kuhn said. “They’ve been very gracious — I know it’s not happy news for them.”
In recent interviews, the leaders of several local nonprofits shared their reaction to last week’s announcement. Yellow Springs Arts Council President Jerome Borchers feels that the college is of critical importance to the village and understands why the foundation would prioritize it above other groups.
“I think that the community benefits from Antioch College and that if you look at those benefits versus the impact to the nonprofits, I think Antioch stands alone as far as the single most important impact on the village,” he said in an interview last week. “For that particular foundation, if that’s where the money has to go, that seems perfectly reasonable to me.”
Home, Inc., which had received regular support from the Morgan Foundation before the first local grant suspension, will continue to feel the loss of a generous funding source for its affordable housing projects, board member Len Kramer said this week. But it won’t be in vain.
“They’ve been such strong supporters, surely they’ll be missed, but Antioch College is also really important in our community,” he said.
Yellow Springs Community Foundation President Sterling Wiggins agreed that it was appropriate that the Morgan Foundation wanted to be “all in” for the college.
“Yellow Springs is stronger when we have a strong Antioch College,” he said in an interview this week.
The Morgan grant is timely, as it will help the college to finish the fiscal year that ends June 30 in the black, according to an Antioch press release last week. With a 2014–15 operating budget of $19.5 million, including $7 million in tuition paid for by alumni donations, the grant will be used for general operations, including everything from salaries and the delivery of the academic curriculum to marketing and development, building maintenance, and student scholarships, according to Antioch College Communications Director Matt Desjardins. The college stressed the use of the funds for underserved students.
“The Morgan Family Foundation grant will be used, in part, to help our neediest students with room and board and other costs that make college prohibitively difficult for so many, and also provide the infrastructure, systems and supports necessary to see these students through to graduation,” Desjardins wrote in an email this week.
The college’s estimated 2015–16 budget, pending board approval, outlines total fundraising goals of approximately $17.5 million in major gifts and $2.8 million from the Annual Fund, including contributions to WYSO, Glen Helen and the Antioch Review.
The absence of the Morgan Foundation as one of just a few local donor groups has thinned funding for community groups. Before the first suspension, MFF had given $9.4 million to Yellow Springs community organizations from 2003 to 2012 for operating capacity and projects and events. In 2011 the Arts Council received $100,000 to fund both operations and the Bronze Symposium. The Little Art received $250,000 to help with the theater’s renovation in 2012, and Home, Inc. received $150,000 for operations and the purchase of property for new housing on Cemetery Street. That year the MFF also gave smaller grants to WYSO radio, the Riding Centre and Tecumseh Land Trust.
The lack of those funds over three years has caused the Arts Council, for example, to cut expenses, reduce staffing and reduce the scope of its projects, Borchers said. The change has also shifted the Arts Council to a reliance on grant writing and memberships, which “we now depend on as our chief sustainability stream.”
“It’s fair to say it’s changed our calculations and caused the board to rethink” future plans, he said. “Yellow Springs Arts Council may have to level off what we can do.”
YS Kids Playhouse received periodic annual operating and event contributions of $10,000 and $20,000 in 2011 and 2009, respectively, Treasurer Kim Kremer said this week. Though the organization receives outside funding from Ohio Arts Council and National Endowment for the Arts, as well as support from Yellow Springs Community Foundation and participant fees, not having the Morgan fund “has made things tougher for YSKP,” she said.
Though Home, Inc. has also been impacted, according to board member Len Kramer this week, past support from the Morgan Foundation positioned the group to be in the completion stage of its first affordable home on Cemetery Street and be making plans for construction on the second of four homes planned for the site. Home, Inc. has had to work harder to find funding elsewhere, such as the Federal Home Loan Bank grant for the first two “C Street” homes. But the organization has also benefited from Antioch College’s presence, in the form of a Miller Fellow, for example, as well as a potential partner in the college’s nascent plans for an Antioch Village, Kramer said.
“As we get projects rolling we’ve had to scramble a little harder to find funds, but funding has always been a hassle, even with the Morgan Family Foundation,” he said. “The community will miss their support in a lot of ways, but they will also benefit us through Antioch College.”
To Borchers, the foundation’s commitment to the college is a sign of Antioch’s ever growing stability as an institution.
“Three years ago, you didn’t know if puting money there was going to have a payoff,” he said. “But to me this might suggest that they’re more certain than not.”
And to him, the college is and should be the priority.
“The value of Antioch College is so much greater than what Arts Council has ever done,” he said. “For the village, it’s not a question.”