Methodist University has received a gift of more than $14 million, the largest gift in school history. More than $12 million of the gift will go directly to student scholarships.
The record-setting gift — with all but $1.5 million being endowed — was given through the estate of Robert J. Chaffin of Fayetteville, who died in late May of this year at the age of 93. Chaffin’s professional career was with Commercial Credit Corporation in Lumberton and Fayetteville, Cross Creek Savings and Loan in Fayetteville, and East Coast Federal Savings and Loan in Fayetteville.
The gift includes $1.5 million designated for the renowned Nursing program at MU and its state-of-the-art facility, which will be named in honor of Chaffin.
“This remarkably generous gift demonstrates the extent to which the path we are taking as a faith-based university, rooted in the liberal arts but with strong professional programs, is both appreciated and valued,” said MU President Stanley T. Wearden. “Our willingness to adapt to workforce development and professional needs, while also holding strong to our mission and values, has put Methodist University in a position to succeed for decades.
“This gift also gives MU an even greater opportunity to offer scholarships that open doors for students who seek MU’s unique combination of a tight-knit, inclusive community with a top-tier education.”
Humble service to causes in which he believed was typical of Chaffin, and Wearden spoke to that exceptional humility in the way he established the gift for MU.
“Mr. Chaffin clearly was not looking for attention to his generosity during his lifetime. Quietly, very much behind the scenes, he was working on building a highly successful financial portfolio for the purpose of one day making a transformative gift to the University,” said Wearden. “While we knew he had established a bequest for the University, Mr. Chaffin never shared the full extent with us nor asked for any thanks in return.”
In addition to his successful career, Chaffin served on the Administrative Board and the Board of Trustees for Camp Ground United Methodist Church in Fayetteville, and was a long-time member of the church. He also served in the U.S. military and graduated from the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill.
“The Board of Trustees at Methodist University has long wanted to grow our endowment and Mr. Chaffin’s gift is foundational as we launch a campaign for that purpose and continue to make MU affordable to all who desire our commitment to a mission-based education that prepares students to be both successful professionals and capable moral actors in the world,” said Mac Healy, chair of the Methodist University Board of Trustees. “This gift and others through the campaign will support all of our students, including greater scholarship support and improved campus facilities.”
With more than 80 areas of study across undergraduate, graduate and doctoral programs — offered on campus and online — MU degrees include Forensic Science, Engineering, Computer Science, Business, Professional Golf Management, Sciences, Liberal Arts, and several programs in the Health Sciences.
“The Nursing Program at MU is continually expanding along with the need for highly trained nursing professionals,” said Shannon Matthews, director of the MU Nursing Program. “For more than a decade we’ve been offering students a hands-on learning environment — including a nursing building with its own 10,000-square-foot simulation hospital — and we couldn’t be more grateful for this gift to help us make this unique, state-of-the-art program even more affordable through additional scholarships for our outstanding students.”
With expanding programs for military students and new partnerships with community colleges in the state — plus a growing number of 100-percent online degree programs — MU’s footprint is expanding and additional scholarship funds through this gift allow for increased opportunity.
“I’m one of 97 percent of the MU students who receive financial aid from the University already, and to see our school have the chance to reach out and help future Monarchs even more is really encouraging,” said MU Student Government President Daniel Magen ’22. “That a private institution with one of the best faculty-to-student ratios in the state can be as affordable as the big state schools shows me we’re investing in our students, both in our present and in our futures. MU students are so grateful to all who make Methodist University such an amazing value for us.”
The $14-million gift comes on the heels of other recent donations and grants to Methodist University resulting in a ribbon-cutting this fall for the Nancy and Murray Duggins Soccer Stadium, completion of work on the Price Softball Fieldhouse, installation of lights at Monarch Stadium, major renovations to the Green & Gold Dining Hall in the Berns Student Center, construction of the Matthews Ministry Center, construction of the Union-Zukowski Lobby & Gallery, a critical stream restoration, numerous golf course upgrades, a new endowment and naming of the Dr. Darl H. Champion Center for Excellence in Justice Administration, and in 2022, the anticipated completion of the Linda and Ralph Huff Concert Hall.