Swarthmore College alumnus, philanthropist, and Board of Managers Chair Giles “Gil” Kemp ’72 and his wife, Barbara Guss Kemp, both long-time supporters of the College, have recently donated $20 million to the school. The Kemps’ gift includes $8 million devoted to financial aid to ensure access for all qualified students, $7 million in support of enhanced community spaces that will enable the College to move forward with renovation of its iconic Clothier Hall, and $5 million in planned gifts as a lifetime pledge to the College and its contributions to the world.
The Kemps were inspired to make this gift to further help the College fulfill several key initiatives identified in Strategic Directions, a blueprint for the college’s future expansions, both in the academic realm and in physical space.
“The education I received and the experiences I had at Swarthmore literally changed my life and launched my career,” says Kemp. “It has been extremely gratifying for Barbara and me to support the College over the years, and I look forward to further ensuring its success by helping to implement the strategic plan. Affirming our commitment to financial aid, improving our community spaces, and securing our place as a truly global liberal arts college are major aspects of Strategic Directions. Barbara and I are proud and humbled to be able to contribute to Swarthmore’s future in this way.”
Thanks to the Kemps , Kemp Global Scholars will be created, a cohort of scholarships to support students from the United States and abroad based on financial need and interest in global leadership. Kemp Global Scholars will be supported through the College’s new Center for Innovation and Leadership and the Office of Off-Campus Study. This dedicated fund will have a profound and lasting impact on Swarthmore’s ability to attract a diverse and talented student body from the U.S. and around the world and will elevate the visibility of its commitment to provide an unparalleled liberal arts education for a global student population.
“Gil’s commitment to lead in philanthropy and service provides a powerful model for our community,” says Swarthmore College President Rebecca Chopp. “Gil is among our most passionate, articulate, and loyal ambassadors and understands well where Swarthmore’s core values lie and how we can best support them. The Kemps’ willingness to provide such significant financial support as we prepare for our sesquicentennial celebration and, ultimately, a comprehensive campaign, is an inspiring testament to their generosity and to Gil’s leadership.”
The Kemps’ gift will also advance the College’s desire to build and sustain intentional communities through the improvement and expansion of its community spaces. The Clothier renovations will restore the 83-year-old building’s interior floor plan to one level, creating a large, multipurpose space that will include a café. The restoration will illuminate the beauty of the original architecture and provide a large, flexible gathering space in the heart of campus.
“Throughout the strategic planning process we heard a constant refrain from students, faculty, and staff who desire a larger community gathering space to support the spontaneous and lively interchanges that are a hallmark of the Swarthmore experience,” says Dean of Students Liz Braun. “This generous gift from Gil and Barbara Kemp will allow us to reimagine Clothier Hall as an inviting ‘living room’ for the college community and as a hub for the cultivation of intentional community.”
As a third component of their gift, the Kemps’ planned gift demonstrates their commitment to Swarthmore’s future as a model of innovation and leadership in the liberal arts. It also reinforces planned giving’s role as a powerful avenue for alumni support of the College as it launches a comprehensive campaign next year to support its strategic initiatives.
“Gil and Barbara’s gift serves as an inspiration to Swarthmore parents and alumni,” says Robin Shapiro ’78, chair of the Board’s development and communications committee. “As we approach the College’s 150th anniversary and the launch of its next comprehensive campaign, the Kemps’ gift inspires us all to reach higher and dig deeper in support of this College and its important mission.”
Before beginning his term in May 2012 as the 13th chair of the Board of Managers of Swarthmore College, Kemp was a Board member for nine years. He chaired the College’s Annual Fund for three years and served as chair of the Board’s development and communications committee. He also served, among his other Board-related roles, as chair of the Strategic Planning Council, which led the College community through an 18-month direction-setting process and produced Strategic Directions.
Kemp, who lives in Scarsdale, N.Y., graduated with honors from Swarthmore with a B.A. in sociology and, in 1976, earned an MBA from Harvard Business School. For the next 15 years, he developed direct-marketing programs for books and newsletters for New American Library, Bantam Books, and Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. In 1990, he founded Home Decorators Collection, one of the nation’s leading direct sellers of home furnishings and accessories. Kemp led the company as president until 2009, approximately three years after the company was purchased by The Home Depot.
Kemp’s philanthropy at Swarthmore reflects his commitment to students and honors those who have influenced him. As a result of the Kemps’ generosity, the College has a residence hall, named for his grandfather, David Kemp; an endowed professorship in the natural sciences, named for his father, Dr. Walter Kemp; West House, the home of the vice president for development and alumni relations, named in honor of former Vice President Dan West and his wife, Sidney; and men’s and women’s locker rooms, given in honor of his former cross-country coach, Joe Stefanowicz. Kemp still holds the College’s outdoor mile record of 4:15.5, which he set in 1970.
Kemp is the co-author of Dale Carnegie: The Man Who Influenced Millions (1989). He serves on the board of the East Meets West Foundation, which supports health and education programs in Asia, and Let’s Get Ready, which provides free SAT preparation and college admission counseling to low-income high school students. He also served for 10 years on the board of The Scarsdale Foundation and 22 years on the board of United Way of Scarsdale, including terms as President and Chair.
A retired Manhattan prosecutor who was once in charge of federally funded community crime reduction programs, Barbara has a long history of philanthropic and civic work. She joined the Occidental College Board of Trustees in 2011 and served six years on the Scarsdale Board of Education, including as president from 2009-10. She has also served on the boards of Scarsdale Synagogue-Tremont Temple and the Overhill Neighborhood Association.