Harrington Gift to Build, Sustain Albion Ties

Citing a need for ‘clever’ philanthropy, the seven-figure gift will provide incentives for College faculty and staff to live near campus, as well as financial support for students

February 19, 2016

Michael and Judy Harrington
Michael and Judy Harrington, Albion alumni from 1985 and 1986.

For Judy and Michael Harrington, the memories of selfless parents and a top-flight education at Albion College have spurred them to make a significant seven-figure gift to the school that has meant so much to them over the years.

The Harringtons’ gift, announced today, consists of two parts that focus on specific aspects of college life. The first is to launch a residential community building initiative that will bring faculty and staff closer to the students; the other will provide financial support for students who need help continuing their education at Albion.

“For some time, Judy and I have thought about a gift that would not only benefit Albion College, but truly and directly impact people,” said Michael Harrington, ’85, senior vice president and general counsel for Eli Lilly and Company in Indianapolis and a member of the College’s board of trustees. “I would include Judy and me among those people affected by this gift. This is a gift that really speaks to us at a time we believe is particularly important and exciting for our alma mater.”

Judy [Small] Harrington, ’86, an Ann Arbor native who worked as a labor and delivery nurse for many years after receiving her biology degree, says she “learned how to study at Albion.” Factoring into that were her many out-of-classroom interactions with faculty and staff, most of whom lived in Albion and even adjacent to the College’s campus.

“You saw them socially and that was one of the main draws to the school,” she said. “With more professors living in town, there are more opportunities to learn—the ‘accidental’ learning, having those opportunities you can’t plan for because of the professors.”

To that end, the gift will assist faculty and staff who want to live in Albion with an incentive to help them build or buy a home within walking distance of campus in the form of forgivable loans that can be used for a down payment on a new home or renovation of an existing home. A five-year occupancy commitment would be required.

Michael, who grew up in Arlington Heights, Ill., said the residential initiative will help not only the College community but the city of Albion as well.

“I think there’s a compelling need to continue to bring the College and community together to advance the interests of both the College and the city,” he said. “We’ve started to do it in the last couple of years. I think it’s a powerful idea. It says that Albion is America—it resonates.”

The second part of the gift focuses on students who want to continue their Albion education but find the financial strain too much to bear—forcing them, sometimes, to leave school. It’s a situation that also carries a certain weight for the Harringtons.

“Judy and I had parents who were willing to make sacrifices for our education,” said Michael, an English major at Albion who was also a member of the Ford Institute. “As we’ve grown up and raised a family, we’ve seen that there are a lot less fortunate people in the world and that there’s a need for clever, generous philanthropy.”

The additional financial support will be available to Albion students already enrolled full-time whose financial barriers are extreme and who have pursued other resources only to find they still can’t meet the costs to continue their education.

Students who are selected must complete a minimum of five hours of financial literacy counseling through the Office of Student Financial Services. They must also sign a pledge stating that if their financial situation allows it in the future, they will “pay it forward” by supporting a future Albion College student who also needs financial help.

President Mauri Ditzler said the Harringtons’ dual-purpose gift supports projects of particular importance to the College’s future.

“This is a momentous gift that will help many people—individuals and families, professors and students—put down roots and then extend them,” Ditzler said. “It will attract people to Albion. It will enable relationships to be created, nurtured and sustained. Learning will be enhanced. Over time it will benefit the entire Albion community, well beyond campus.

“You hear a lot about smart growth for cities both large and small,” Ditzler continued. “This gift represents an exciting and fresh take on smart growth at a very important time in the College's history, and we are incredibly grateful to Michael and Judy Harrington for their generosity and vision.”