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Generous gift empowers student philanthropy

Commencement Get Involved
June 23, 2021

This spring, graduating seniors at Denison University received an unexpected opportunity to become truly impactful philanthropists. Denison alum Jonathan Silverstein ‘89 and his wife Natalie matched every donation from the Denison Class of 2021 towards their senior class gift to the college. That gracious offer was then amplified as the Silversteins provided an additional $200,000 for the class to designate to their favorite on- and off-campus causes.

From a slate of programs chosen by the Senior Class Gift Committee, students voted to award $100,000 to campus mental health initiatives. In addition, they ranked a list of community organizations in nearby Newark, curated by the Denison Community Association. The largest prize, $16,000, was awarded to the Center for New Beginnings, a domestic violence support service. The remaining funds were distributed equally among Big Brothers, Big Sisters, the Boys and Girls Club, Hospice of Central Ohio, the Humane Society, the Newark Ohio Pride Coalition, and the Salvation Army.

“Jonathan and Natalie wanted to inspire hope, goodwill, and persistence in the Class of 2021 during a difficult year,” says Arielle Johnson, associate director of Campus Philanthropic Programs. Johnson coordinated the project.

The philanthropic project also inspired a more than 300% increase in donors to the senior class gift. Those funds were designated to support emergency needs, an endowed scholarship, and the Burpee’s Seedy Theatrical Improv group, the longest-running college improv group in the nation.

“This was a cross-campus effort with the President’s Office, Institutional Advancement, and Student Development that came to a close with a wonderful reception where checks were presented to the winners,” adds Johnson. “We are thrilled the Silversteins’ generosity inspired our students to strengthen their Denison DNA as active and engaged citizens.”