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Centre’s endowment is a fund whose principal is invested, and the earnings used to finance a portion of the operating or capital requirements of the institution. From the early days to present, tuition alone has never completely covered the cost of operating the school, and the endowment provides the means to cover the gap between tuition and expenses. As expenses have grown, so is the need to increase the endowment.

Nineteenth Century

The first endowment of Centre came from two sources: money that had been subscribed to the Danville Academy and proceeds from the sale of the public square in Danville. This amounted to about $16,700. Those funds were quickly expended with establishing the new college and the building of Old Centre. In 1824 the Kentucky legislature amended the original charter to permit the Kentucky Synod of the Presbyterian Church to elect the college's trustees in return for the Synod’s promise to endow the college with $20,000 and assume responsibility for the school. Within a few years this money had also been spent, and by 1830 the College was nearly destitute. Raising funds to endow the college or professorships through donations, subscriptions, and scholarships were a primary concern of the Board. Metallic truss. Agents.

Donations were essentially gifts, and usually came from individuals in the form of money, stocks or bonds, or property. Subscriptions were legally binding promises to pay a certain amount of money. Scholarships, sold in amounts of $100 and $500, allowed the giver to send a number of students to Centre tuition free depending on the size of the scholarship. Today’s method of increasing the endowment by seeking large contributions from foundations and corporations was unknown. Supporters of the college did sometimes contribute significant resources, although this was rare. David A. Sayre, a wealthy Lexington businessman, provided the funds to build the first Sayre Library, and Samuel Laird donated $12,000 to endow a professorship. All three methods of raising funds had problems: donations were mostly small and often included requirements on how the money was to be spent. Subscriptions often required Centre to expend funds and effort to collect the money that had been promised, and the school was forced on occasion to resort to legal action. Scholarships were sold in such quantities that soon the school found itself in the unfortunate situation of having a significant part of the student body not paying any tuition. The Financial Agent reported in 1855 that of the 223 total students in the college and preparatory school, 60 were on scholarship.

In spite of these obstacles, the endowment slowly increased. The 1848 catalog notes that the Synod of Kentucky had resolved to raise the endowment to $100,000. The College employed a succession of Presbyterians ministers, or "agents", to go from church to church, preaching and soliciting donations. The 1855 catalog gives the endowment as about $85,000; the 1865 catalog as about $105,000. The 1865 financial report shows that the funds were invested primarily in government (state, county, and city), bank, railroad, and turnpike stocks and bonds. The largest amounts were City of Louisville ($16,000), State of Missouri ($12,000), and Bank of Kentucky ($10,100).

By 1885 the catalog was able to brag that the funds of Centre had steadily increased "... until the endowment has assured the permanent success of the school.” However, there was also a caution that while the endowment had grown, in needed to be increased even more to allow Centre to keep pace with other institutions. “There is no better place a man can put his money to insure a perpetual return of good accomplished by it, then in a well endowed Christian College."

Twentieth Century

The 1930 catalog lists Centre’s endowment as $1,252,449, and notes that the college’s first $100,000 was raised in the administration of John C. Young and the second $100,000 during William C. Young’s presidency. In the early decades of the century, the largest campaign raised $600,000 additional endowment funds. Completed in 1922, the campaign included a gift of $200,000 from the General Education Board (Rockefeller Foundation).

By 1940 the endowment had grown to $1,336,000. In 1939 Centre was bequeathed over $400,000 from the estate of Guy E. Wiseman, Class of 1885 and trustee. Part of the gift was used to build Wiseman Hall and McReynolds Hall.

In 1959 President Thomas A. Spragens announced the college would embark on a ten-year, $8,500,000 development program that was to culminate in 1969, the schools' 150th anniversary. Named the Sesquicentennial Campaign, it called for $6,500,000 in permanent funds for buildings and endowment and an additional $2,300,000 for residential facilities. In 1980 Centre announced a campaign to raise $30 million by July 1982, the goal to increase the endowment from $11.5 million to $30 million. The Fund for The Future raised over $34 million.

In 1987 Centre College announced a campaign to raise $33 million over a three year period. Named the Campaign for Centre, the focus was on improving faculty salaries and increasing endowment for financial aid and scholarships.

Michael Adams tripled the college’s endowment to over $120 million, and achieved the highest percentage of alumni giving in higher education, and raised more than $70 million through the Front and Centre Campaign.

Twenty-First Century

In January 2004 Centre publically announced is largest fundraising effort, the Campaign for a More Perfect Centre, with a goal of $120 million. A five-year comprehensive drive to raise funds in support of capital projects, endowment growth, and ongoing support (annual giving), the campaign ended on schedule and well over its goal on December 31, 2007. Against the goal of $120 million, the campaign generated gifts and pledges totaling $169,374,192.

At the end of 2013, Centre’s endowment stood at $240,340,414.