Swarthmore lands $20 million donation

Another day, another multi-million dollar gift for Swarthmore College.

Just two months after receiving its largest gift ever, a whopping $50 million from businessman Eugene Lang, another Swarthmore alum is signing a big check. 

Gil Kemp and his wife, Barbara Guss Kemp, are committing $15 million now and $5 million in planned giving.

The majority of the gift, $8 million, will be committed to financial aid. The remaining $7 million will fund the renovation of Clothier Hall, a social hub on campus.

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Kemp, the founder of a home-decor sales business that was acquired by The Home Depot in 2006, has been the chair of the school’s Board of Managers since May 2012.

“Financial aid is a cornerstone of what Swarthmore is all about,” Kemp told WHYY. “Opening this experience to a wider range of kids is an essential part of the process.”

Kemp, who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y., graduated from Swarthmore in 1972. He later earned an MBA from Harvard Business School.

A cross-country runner in college, Kemp still holds Swarthmore’s outdoor mile record of 4 minutes, 15 seconds.

“It feels as if it was a feat performed by a different body,” said Kemp, who comes off in conversation as genuinely humble. “I hope it will be a record broken in the next few years. Definitely time. Or past time.”

And if that $8 million helps pay the way of the school’s next great distance runner?

“That,” says Kemp, “would be terrific.”

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