June 6th, 2013

Common cause

Donors respond to Century Challenge

HildrethIncreasing the funds available for scholarships is one of the most important goals of The Campaign for Boston University. With that goal in mind, BU created an exciting new initiative: the Century Challenge.

Here’s how it works: For any new endowed undergraduate scholarship commitment of $100,000 or greater, BU will match, dollar-for-dollar, the income distributed for awards for a period of 100 years. In other words, for the next century, the impact of a qualifying Century Challenge gift will be doubled.

And donors are responding: As of March 2013, BU alumni and other friends had pledged more than $10 million to create 34 Century Challenge funds.

Hildreth provides FUEL for students and their families

One such donor is Robert Hildreth, father of Ben (GSM’10) and Rebecca (CGS’11, COM’13, CAS’13). Inspired by the Century Challenge, Hildreth and his wife Diane pledged $3 million to establish the Families United in Educational Leadership (FUEL) Scholarship.

“The cost of higher education is extremely high and is going up all the time,” says Hildreth, “so kids need help paying for college.” The BU match made good economic sense, and the opportunity to provide financial aid spoke to Hildreth’s personal interests.

“My cause is to help low-income Boston students get into college,” Hildreth says. He has advanced that cause for more than 20 years now, having joined with Boston University in the 1990s to build the Early Childhood Learning Center in Chelsea, Mass.—and, more recently, by founding FUEL.

FUEL’s mission, Hildreth explains, is to work with community partners to “provide knowledge, resources, connections, and financial incentives that empower parents to propel their children into higher education.”

“I was very excited when President Brown came up with this idea. I wanted to endorse it, and I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to join me.” —Robert Hildreth

Hildreth is clearly proud of the work FUEL does. “Family involvement is critical to future prospects for the child,” he says. “My theory is that if you get parents involved in the education of their children, especially the college access process—which is very complex, especially with first-generation college-goers—you will increase the chances a child could go someplace like BU.”

With his Century Challenge scholarship, any students who successfully complete a FUEL program and apply and are admitted to BU now have an extra incentive: a Century Challenge scholarship fund just for them.

Boston’s University

Why BU? “BU is Boston’s University,” Hildreth says. “It’s a school that has had a very long commitment to Boston and to the low-income families of Boston. And it is a school that has gotten better and better academically.” Through the education his father received as a commuter with limited means, his son’s experiences at the Graduate School of Management, and his daughter’s years here as an undergraduate, Hildreth has tracked BU’s continual growth and success.

Lately, he has experienced BU from a new perspective: that of a trustee of the University. “The chance to contribute to such a major institution is fantastic and very interesting,” he says. It also meant that Hildreth was one of the first to learn about the Century Challenge. “I was very excited when President Brown came up with this idea,” he says. “I wanted to endorse it, and I wanted to encourage as many people as possible to join me.”

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