Related: Education, Students

The Biggest Benefactor


Imagine getting a gift of $250 Billion — that’s right, Billion — to fund scholarships for students.   Imagine making it possible for 54 million students to attend college.

Claiborne Pell was such a benefactor, for Trinity students and for millions of college students throughout the United States.   A United States Senator from 1961 to 1997, he was the champion and driving force behind the federal grant program now known as Pell Grants.    The retired Rhode Island Democratic Senator died on New Year’s Day at age 90.    American higher education mourns the loss of this magnificent advocate for students with financial needs.

Students often never have a chance to meet their benefactors in person, but the sense of gratitude and stewardship for their generosity prevails across generations.   Scholarships from benefactors I never met made it possible for me to attend Trinity, and I have felt indebted to those wonderful donors ever since.   Pell grants are different from private scholarships, of course, since they are funded by the federal government.    But in the same way that we appreciate our private charitable scholarship benefactors, those who have reaped the benefits of Pell Grants should pause to remember and thank Senator Pell for his large vision and forceful advocacy for students.

See President Clinton’s eulogy at Senator Pell’s funeral.

See Trinity’s website for federal student aid programs including Pell Grants.

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Patricia A. McGuire, President, Trinity, 125 Michigan Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20017
Phone: 202.884.9050   Email: