ACU Announces Largest Gift in School's History
for release after 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 21, 1998
Abilene Christian University has received a $26.5 million gift to its endowment - the largest single gift in the university's history, officials announced at a news conference Saturday.
The Grace L. Woodward Memorial Endowment Trust was established by Bob Woodward of Kerrville in honor of his mother, who died April 24, 1997. Her dream was that her money would be used for a Christian cause.
After observing ACU's Board of Trustees for 30 years, Woodward told his friend Dr. John C. Stevens, ACU chancellor emeritus, that he "couldn't think of a better group of people to manage my mother's money." He chose to dedicate the funds to ACU's College of Biblical Studies because its mission is the same as his mother's: to advance the cause of Christ through the church.
The endowment gift will help the college prepare future church leaders - particularly preachers, elders and teachers. Currently, 469 ACU students major in biblical studies fields such as pulpit ministry, youth ministry, marriage and family therapy, and missions. ACU undergraduates of all majors receive a strong biblical foundation by taking a minimum of 15 credit hours in biblical studies.
"We are so grateful for Grace Woodward's generous gift, through her son, Bob, which will bless many generations to come," said Dr. Royce Money, ACU president. "ACU will strive to instill the servant spirit so exemplified by her in every student who benefits from her family's generosity."
Dr. Jack Reese, dean of the College of Biblical Studies, said because of this gift, far more students will be able to receive substantial scholarships, the faculty will be able to expand to better prepare students, library acquisitions and other resources will increase, and active partnerships with churches will be able to grow.
"This gift will affect the future of this college in dynamic and immediate ways," Reese said. "And while the departments within the college have served leading roles within Churches of Christ and beyond for many decades, I believe we will look back at this time in our history and say, 'Here was a great turning point; here was the gift we most needed to be engaged more effectively in worldwide ministry for the cause of Christ.' We are grateful."
The Woodward family has a long history of giving - but always anonymously, Money said. Bob Woodward's grandparents started numerous churches, founded and supported many children's homes, and sent countless students through Abilene Christian with few people ever knowing.
Bob's father, Harvey Woodward, who died in a plane crash when Bob was just a few years old, started a loan fund for ACU students in the 1920s. He believed the fact that every student who ever borrowed from the fund paid the money back in full reflected the quality of ACU and its students.
After her husband's death, Grace Woodward never remarried. She devoted her life to the church, teaching a women's Bible class for more than 50 years in Houston. Because of ill health, she moved to Kerrville in 1981.
"The Woodwards tend to do their good works quietly, behind the scenes, without much fanfare," Money said. "But Bob told me he wanted to make an exception for this gift for two reasons: one, because he wanted to honor his mother, Mrs. Grace Woodward; and two, because he hopes to inspire others to give to ACU in a similar way."
In memory of Mrs. Woodward, a piece of art will be commissioned for the Hall of Servants in the Biblical Studies Building. The nature of the work will be announced at a later date.
Available philanthropic data shows the Woodward gift to ACU is likely one of the 10 largest private gifts in the history of higher education in Texas. The gift places ACU among a small group of Texas schools who have received large gifts such as Texas A&M University, Southern Methodist University, University of Houston, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center.
Previously, the largest single gift to ACU was $11 million in 1980 from the estate of F.O. Masten, a farmer, rancher and oilman from the Texas Panhandle.
ACU officials announced the Woodward gift while also launching the university's $100 million campaign, "To Lead and To Serve." The gift will be counted toward the goal of the campaign.
"I want people to know about the faith and vision of our Board of Trustees," Money said. "The men and women of our board set forth the challenging goal of $100 million for the future of ACU before they knew anything about the Woodward gift. Only a few weeks later, Bob Woodward called. We know this goal is so ambitious that when we reach it we will know we can attribute it to God's work, not our own. The Woodward gift is a shining example of how God's works are wonderful beyond comprehension."
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