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Scarsdale Couple Donates $20M To Swarthmore College

Scarsdale residents Gil and Barbara Kemp at Swarthmore College. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Swarthmore College
Scarsdale residents Barbara and Gil Kemp make their gift announcement to the Board of Managers at Swarthmore College. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Swarthmore College

SCARSDALE, N.Y. – Scarsdale residents Giles “Gil” Kemp and his wife, Barbara Guss Kemp, have donated $20 million to Swarthmore College.

Gil Kemp, chair of the college's Board of Managers, graduated from Swarthmore in 1972. The gift includes $8 million for financial aid, $7 million for the continued renovation of Clothier Hall and $5 million in planned gifts as a lifetime pledge.

The gift will be used to fulfill several initiatives outlined in a Strategic Directions plan approved by the Board of Managers in 2011.

“The education I received and the experiences I had at Swarthmore literally changed my life and launched my career,” Kemp said. “It has been extremely gratifying to support the college over the years and I look forward to further ensuring its success by helping to implement the strategic plan.”

Before becoming the 13th chair of the Board of Managers last May, Kemp served as a board member for nearly a decade. He has chaired Swarthmore’s annual fund for three years and is the former chair of the board’s development and communications committee.

The donation will support a Kemp Global Scholars program under the college’s new Center for Innovation and Leadership and the office of off-campus study.

The renovations at Clothier Hall will restore the 83-year-old building’s interior floor plan to one level, creating a large space that will include a café. It will provide a large, flexible gathering space in the heart of campus.

The Scarsdale resident graduated from Swarthmore with a degree in sociology and earned his MBA from the Harvard Business School. He developed direct-marketing programs for books and newsletters before founding Home Decorators, one of the nation’s leading sellers of home furniture and accessories. He served as president of the company until 2009, three years after it was purchased by Home Depot.

During the announcement of the donation, Swarthmore President Rebecca Chopp praised the Kemps for their generosity.

“Gil’s commitment to lead in philanthropy and service provides a powerful model for our community,” she said. “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.”

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