Couple's Record Gift: What HCC Asked for, Times Two

By Susan DeFord
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, December 21, 2006

Howard Community College President Mary Ellen Duncan recently asked two of the college's longtime benefactors, Patrick and Jill McCuan, to donate as much as half a million dollars as part of the college's private fundraising campaign.

The McCuans thought it over, consulting with board members of their family trust, and then decided to donate more than double Duncan's request. At $1.2 million, it is the Columbia college's largest cash gift.

"It's the first time I asked [donors] for something, and they come back with twice as much," Duncan said last week. "What I hope, obviously, is that others will follow in this example."

The McCuans' gift caps a six-year drive by HCC to privately raise at least $12 million to support the college's fast-paced growth. The donation, Duncan said, raises the total pledged to $13 million. Two years ago, the college received its first million-dollar donation, from Peter and Elizabeth Horowitz of Columbia, and named its new visual and performing arts building for the couple.

The college has expanded programs and constructed three buildings in the past six years as it scrambles to keep up with a climbing student population. About 25 percent of Howard County's high school graduates enroll at the community college. Enrollment in HCC credit courses increased by one-third from 2000 to 2005, reaching 7,161 this fall.

Patrick McCuan said he and his wife wanted their gift "to help other business people to step forward and say, 'Let's support the college.' "

Patrick McCuan, 65, is chief executive of Columbia-based MDG Cos., which is involved in commercial and residential real estate development in Columbia, Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Naples, Fla. Before becoming involved in real estate in 1975, he taught social policy courses at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. He has degrees in psychology, education, social work and organizational analysis. Jill McCuan, 55, took classes at HCC years ago while pursuing a career in banking after an earlier marriage ended.

The McCuans divide their time between an 117-acre horse farm in Woodbine and a residence in Naples. Their family trust also has made major gifts to the University of Maryland, Baltimore, St. Margaret's School in Tappahannock, Va., and Otterbein College in Ohio.

In 1994, the couple established an endowment at HCC to help low-income women enter and advance in the workplace. The McCuan Family Foundation Endowment stands at $250,000.

"We really believe there are a lot of women out there that need a little bit of assistance," Patrick McCuan said.

Under the terms of the McCuans' most recent gift, the couple will provide another $200,000 to the endowment as the college raises funds to match the $200,000, increasing the endowment to $650,000.

The remaining $1 million of the gift is not earmarked for a particular program.

"It says to the college, 'We have enough respect for you, you use it as you see fit,' " McCuan said.

The HCC Educational Foundation will provide recommendations for the money, and the college will rename its administrative building, which also houses classrooms, as McCuan Hall.

Throughout Maryland, other community colleges also have developed ambitious private fundraising programs. Montgomery College, for example, has received several million-dollar-plus donations. This year, it announced its largest gift ever: a $3 million commitment from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation to help build a visual arts center.

Even though community colleges receive significant funding each year from state and local governments, Duncan said, "there's a limit to what government can provide the colleges."

"All of the colleges are trying to reach out to find the resources they need from private sources," she said.

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