Gift of $117 million announced for famous Rhodes Scholar program at Oxford

September 19, 2013

A Canadian philanthropy on Thursday announced a gift of about $117 million to the Rhodes Trust to expand a program famed for sending talented young scholars — including one who became a U.S. president — to the University of Oxford.

The gift from the McCall MacBain Foundation, established by John and Marcy McCall MacBain, was described as the biggest since Cecil Rhodes established the scholarship in 1903.

“These scholarships have been helping develop future leaders for over a century,” John McCall MacBain, who became a Rhodes Scholar in 1980 and made a fortune in the classified advertising business, said in a prepared speech in Oxford. “With the world facing ever-increasing challenges, the need to help develop leadership skills is more important than ever. I hope that this gift will help secure them for another 100 years.”

One-third of the gift, according to a news release, is a grant. Another third is a challenge grant to obtain matching donations. And the rest will be intended to expand the global reach of the scholarships. Each year, 83 scholars are chosen from various countries, including the United States. Bill Clinton was selected in 1968, 24 years before he was elected president.

For most of its history, the Rhodes Trust relied exclusively on its founding bequest. But in the past few years the trust reportedly has been stretched thin, forcing it to seek money from alumni and others.

Nick Anderson covers higher education for The Washington Post. He has been a writer and editor at The Post since 2005.
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