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  • Writer's pictureAri Betof

Hamilton College Scholarship Students Set to Benefit from Biggest-Ever Gift

Hamilton College in Clinton, New York, recently received its largest single gift in the college’s 200-year history. The gift of $22 million comes from the recently concluded estate of late Wall Street executive Keith S. Wellin (1926 – 2014). The gift comprises $19 million, earmarked to create an endowed student scholarship fund, and $3 million in art.

Keith Wellin’s Professional Career

Wellin was born in Michigan and raised in Chicago, Illinois. He spent a year at The Citadel military academy in Charleston before joining the army. There he served at the tail end of World War II and in Korea. After his service, he earned a degree in philosophy and English literature from Hamilton and then earned his MBA from Harvard in 1952.

He had an illustrious career in securities and investment banking, becoming president of E. F. Hutton & Co. at only 39 years old. He went on to hold senior vice president and president roles with Reynolds Securities. He was ultimately named executive vice president of Dean Witter Reynolds Securities, a stock brokerage that was one of the largest on the New York Stock Exchange at the time.

Wellin was a member, and later governor, of the Executive Committee of the Association for Stock Exchange Firms and a member of the Governing Council of the Securities Industry Association.

Wellin’s Commitment to Hamilton

As a junior, a young Wellin broached admission to Harvard’s Graduate School of Business with Hamilton's Dean Winton Tolles. Tolles’ reply, "Mr. Wellin, surely you jest,” was the motivation Wellin needed to apply himself to his studies. Wendy Wellin, who survives her husband, says Wellin always credited Hamilton with his success.

During his time at the college, Wellin held several leadership roles. He was president of his freshman class and served on the Honor Court and the Student Council. He also served as an editor of the college newspaper, The Spectator. Hamilton always held a special place in his heart, and he maintained close ties after returning to Chicago and later New York City.

He served as a charter trustee over two periods and was ultimately named a life trustee. His financial prowess served the college well in his role as both member and chairman of the board’s investment committee.

The Impact of Wellin’s Legacy at Hamilton

Wellin never took his education for granted and was gratified by the opportunity to influence the lives of others similarly. In the many years of his involvement with the college, Wellin’s donations totaled approximately $36.5 million, including this latest gift. These funds will continue to have a significant impact on the experience of faculty and students into the future.

The college’s Ruth and Elmer Wellin Museum of Art is named for Wellin’s parents and was made possible by a $10 million contribution made jointly with Wendy. The Wellin family is renowned for its appreciation of art. Keith’s father, Elmer Wellin, was an art collector and amateur painter. Wendy spent time studying in a program at Sotheby’s Institute of Art. She continues to serve on the Wellin Museum Advisory Committee and as an honorary docent for the museum.

Wellin funds enabled the construction of the Carol Woodhouse Wellin Hall, named for Wellin’s first wife and the mother of his children, as well as the Wellin Atrium in the Taylor Science Center and the Wellin Performance Courts in the Little Squash Center. Wellin also supported several faculty endowment funds, scholarships, and programs—often made to honor Hamiltonians who had made a difference in his life.

The Wellin Family’s Greater Philanthropy

Wellin’s philanthropy was not restricted to Hamilton but extended to many in need. He was a longtime supporter of the Bowery Mission in New York City. His niece was killed in the terrorist attacks on 9/11. He funded a dedicated space for women in need at the Bowery in her memory.

On their return to Charleston in 2005, Keith and Wendy quickly became actively involved in supporting many local philanthropic organizations. Their significant donation to the Medical University of South Carolina enabled the construction of the Keith Wellin Head and Neck Clinic, while donations to the Roper St. Francis Hospital were directed to constructing the Wellin Stroke Center. (Keith spent time at Roper recovering from a stroke.)

In 1999 Wellin was bestowed with an honorary doctor of laws for his achievements and contributions to Hamilton. He is one of the thousands of alumni, parents, and friends who provide the finances to support the college’s bold decision to admit students solely on their achievements. Thanks to this collective effort, Hamilton can meet 100 percent of demonstrated financial need for all those who matriculate.

Featured Image courtesy CommonApp

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