MACON, Ga. – Mercer University has received a $2 million endowment gift from Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald of Vancouver, Wash., to underwrite the University's Center for America's Founding Principles and to fund an educational initiative to benefit students from the Dominican Republic, where the donors' family has business interests.
In recognition of the major gift, the Center – an interdisciplinary, faculty-led program that promotes the study and teaching of the foundational works of western civilization – will be renamed the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles.
Mr. McDonald attended Mercer before going on to earn degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Harvard University, and Mrs. McDonald is a graduate of Tift College, which merged with the University in the late 1980s.
"We have been greatly blessed by the opportunities our country, the United States of America, has given to us and provided to others who are industrious, have an entrepreneurial spirit, and a strong ethical foundation," Mr. McDonald said. "In addition, we are appreciative of the teamwork we have enjoyed in the Dominican Republic to increase jobs and improve the economics within that country. Too few of our young people today are aware of America's founding principles and the positive impact they have had on multiple peoples all over the world. We hope this Center for America's Founding Principles will increase the awareness of many more young people in how America has become the great nation we are and that maintaining freedom and our system of government requires constant diligence. We are grateful to Mercer for helping us to educate generations of young people on our country's founding principles and how these relate to current issues, as well as to aid in the task of improving education in the Dominican Republic."
"This generous gift from Tom and Ramona McDonald allows the University to significantly strengthen what has become one of Mercer's centers of excellence," said Mercer President William D. Underwood. "With this kind of financial undergirding, coupled with support we have received from other donors, the McDonald Center for America's Founding Principles is on its way to national prominence in this academic discipline."
The couple's gift also establishes the Thomas C. and Ramona E. McDonald Fund for Advancement of Education in the Dominican Republic, which will allow Mercer to provide resources for Dominican professors, secondary teachers, and education students through exchange programs, scholarships, workshops and other collaborations. The program will help them improve their teaching and communication skills, as well as supplement their understanding and use of the English language in teaching, ultimately leading to expanded economic opportunities for Dominican students and the country in general.
"We look forward to working with institutions and governmental officials in the Dominican Republic to develop programs that enhance both their educational programs and the University's," Underwood said. "I believe this initiative will prove beneficial for Mercer students and faculty, as well as educators and students in the Dominican Republic."
The endowment gift for the Center will fund courses, reading groups, visiting faculty and other initiatives that promote the study, understanding and critical analysis of America's founding principles embodied in the U.S. Constitution, the Declaration of Independence, the Federalist Papers, and similar documents.
"One of the most important challenges of contemporary higher education is to train students to engage in serious, well-grounded civil discourse about important ideas," said Dr. Charlotte Thomas, co-director of the Center, professor of philosophy, and director of Mercer's philosophy, politics and economics program. "The Center for America's Founding principles is deeply committed to promoting thoughtful engagement with the books and ideas that influenced the American founding and, at the same time, modeling exactly the sort of serious debate and respectful disagreement that our founders believed necessary for the American Republic to thrive. This remarkable gift by Tom and Ramona McDonald will broaden and deepen the work of the Center, while at the same time securing its future."
"Over the last five years, we have built the Center into one of the most active and exciting programs in the nation for the serious study of the ideas that have shaped this country," said Dr. Will Jordan, associate professor of political science and Center co-director. "This wonderful gift will allow us to enhance our programs even further, and will ensure that future generations of Mercerians will have an opportunity to study and appreciate the founding. We are very grateful to the McDonald family."
The gift to the Center for America's Founding Principles comes on the heels of last year's $1 million endowment gift from alumnus and former Trustee A.V. Elliott to fund the annual A.V. Elliott Conference on Great Books and Ideas, which is also coordinated by the Center.
Mercer is one of a select few institutions in the country and the only one in Georgia that has a Great Books of Western Civilization program as part of its general education curriculum. The Center complements this curriculum with programs including lecture series and campus conferences, and seeks to reinforce the importance of a traditional liberal arts education.
About Mercer University
Founded in 1833, Mercer University is a dynamic and comprehensive center of undergraduate, graduate and professional education. The University enrolls more than 8,300 students in 12 schools and colleges – liberal arts, law, pharmacy, medicine, business, engineering, education, theology, music, nursing, health professions, and continuing and professional studies – on campuses in Macon, Atlanta and Savannah – and four regional academic centers across the state. The Mercer Health Sciences Center, launched July 1, 2012, includes the University's medical, nursing, health sciences and pharmacy schools. Mercer is affiliated with four teaching hospitals – Memorial University Medical Center in Savannah, the Medical Center of Central Georgia in Macon, and The Medical Center and St. Francis Hospital in Columbus. The University also has educational partnerships with Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Warner Robins and Piedmont Healthcare in Atlanta. It operates an academic press and a performing arts center in Macon and an engineering research center in Warner Robins. Mercer is the only private university in Georgia to field an NCAA Division I athletic program. www.mercer.edu