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Withdrawal of Large Donations Rare, but Centre College's Reputation Shouldn't Suffer

Thefailure of a $250-million donation to Centre College to come through is an uncommon event in higher education fundraising, but the Danville liberal arts college should weather it fine, said the leader of a professional organization for education advancement.The intention of the gift "still indicates on the part of the donor that the institution—that Centre—was the kind of place that he thought was worthy of that level of investment, particularly in the area of student scholarships and wanting to make that kind of educational opportunity broadly available, said John Lippincott, president for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.Intended gifts fall through—but usually not after they're publicly announced, making Centre's case rare, Lippincott said. Donations are "extraordinarily important" in higher education, particularly small liberal arts colleges that are trying to offer high quality but intimate settings, Lippincott said. And all colleges and universities are facing challenges because of economic pressures on families who'll be paying tuition, plus increasing costs.The $250-million gift from the A. Eugene Brockman Trust was announced in July and was considered among the largest ever to a small liberal arts college. But the gift was tied to a "significant capital market event," and—in short—things didn't turn out quite as planned.“We’re stunned that that’s not going to occur," Centre President John Roush told Kentucky Public Radio. "Having said that, it does go without saying, as life comes at you, there always is a certain measure of risk. This whole process involved some risk, we knew that.”The donation was going to go toward thecreation of a new scholarship program.Centre officials said the still plan to pursue creating such a program. In a news release announcing the end of the planned gift, Centre officials still praised the Brockman Trust, noting past contributions to the school.Centre officials learned last weekend that the deal wouldn't close on Sept. 4 as planned, a college spokesman said. They were told Friday that the gift would be withdrawn.The Brockman Trust is tied to Robert Brockman, chief executive of Reynolds and Reynolds, an automobile dealer services company and a former Centre student, The New York Times reported in July. He's a formerchairman of the Centre Board of Trustees.In July, Moody's lowered Reynolds and Reynolds' corporate family rating.Brockman did not respond to a call left at his Ohio office. 

Joseph Lord is the online managing editor for WFPL.