Oct. 4, 2006 -- During the official launch of the University of Virginia's $3 billion campaign, University President John T. Casteen III and his wife, Betsy Foote Casteen, made a $500,000 gift, stipulating that the funds be used to provide scholarship support for the children of staff and faculty.
Casteen said that he and Mrs. Casteen were prompted to make this particular gift because they believe that educational support of this kind ought to be a normal employment benefit for faculty and staff members in Virginia's public colleges. "There are plenty of needs to be met in this campaign, but after thinking and talking about this specific need for the last three years, Betsy and I decided that this would be our personal issue," Casteen said.
While secretary of education in the early 1980s, Casteen said he tried to get funding for this purpose through the state budget, and found no support for it. "The state never has paid for it, or even put a line for it in the state budget. In other states," he said, "scholarship support for faculty members' children, and sometimes also for classified staff members' children, is a customary benefit that the state itself pays."
Casteen noted that educational benefits for the children of faculty are commonplace in top private universities, but he knows of none that extend such benefits for all full-time employees' children.
While the University sought money for this purpose in the last capital campaign, and a number of donors gave to it, the results were limited. "In the end, the sum was too small to make a great difference," Casteen said. Since the beginning of the last campaign in 1995, 24 children of U.Va. employees received one-time awards, averaging $3,000 per student. The figure varies according to funds available.
The Casteens' plan is far more ambitious. They want their gift to create an endowed scholarship fund to support undergraduate education - four years of full-time study - for daughters and sons of full-time University employees. They are leaving details of how the program will be implemented to the discretion of the BOV or its designee.
The Casteens hope that their gift will inspire others to follow their lead. "As the fund grows to maturity in the endowment it will produce some of the money the Rector and Visitors will need to provide this kind of financial support for children of employees, " Casteen said.
"It is our wish that in designating our gift, we show not only our commitment to this need, but also the commitment of the Rector and Visitors to the families of persons who work here."
Gordon F. Rainey Jr., chairman of the campaign and a member of the University's Board of Visitors, who officially announced the gift on Saturday evening, called it "a splendid act of generosity that reflects their abiding respect and affection for the University's most valuable assets - our faculty and our staff.
"Coming as it does at the public launch of the Campaign for Virginia," he added, "I expect it to inspire others to make similar commitments. John and Betsy Casteen are leading by example."