The College of the Holy Cross has received a $23.5 million gift from the late Agnes Neill Williams, former member of the Board of Trustees – the largest estate gift in the history of the College. This gift kickstarts the launch of the Hope + Access Campaign for Financial Aid, which aims to raise $40 million for need-based financial aid between January 2021 and June 2022.
The goal of the 18-month Hope + Access campaign is to ensure that all admitted students have the opportunity to attend Holy Cross regardless of financial need. The College is committed to meeting 100 percent of the demonstrated need of accepted students. Agnes Williams’ bequest will be used to match all new and increased annual gifts to the College in support of financial aid.
In making this transformative gift, Agnes was inspired by her alumnus husband, the late Edward Bennett Williams ’41, a celebrated trial lawyer and influential Washington insider. Edward was the only child of a department store floorwalker in Hartford, Conn. When his father was laid off during the Great Depression, the vice principal of his high school helped him secure a scholarship at Holy Cross, a school he would not have been able to attend without the support of financial aid.
“My mother really believed in the Jesuit methodology of delivering higher education, and that a good college education was the greatest gift that one could give a child,” the couples’ son Ned Williams ’83 said. “Ultimately, financial aid is one of the most powerful and long-lasting gifts because the hope is that these students will change the world, and change, in some way, Holy Cross’ future, just as when Holy Cross took a chance on my dad.”
A passionate supporter of student success and faculty excellence, Agnes Williams has been intimately involved with Holy Cross over the last three decades and beyond. She established the Edward Bennett Williams Fellows Program with a substantial gift to fund tenure-track faculty positions and created the Agnes N. Williams Fund Salary Initiative to enable the College to offer competitive faculty salaries. The Agnes N. Williams Fund Pre-Law Program, also created with a leadership gift, supports Holy Cross’ pre-law program, a particular interest as Agnes and Edward both practiced law.
“The significant challenges and upheaval of the past year have greatly reinforced the value of the formative education we offer at Holy Cross,” said Rev. Philip L. Boroughs, S.J., president of the College. “I am incredibly humbled by the Williams’ commitment to the College and to ensuring that every qualified student who has the opportunity to come to Mount St. James is able to do so.”
The Williams’ ties with the College stretches to three generations: the couple’s son Ned graduated from Holy Cross in 1983 and their granddaughter Adair Bender graduated in 2012.
Volunteer co-chairs John Mullman ’82, P07, Maura Doherty ’86, Kathleen Maggi ’91, Melisa Alves ’06 and Gary Acquah ’14 will help lead the campaign.
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