Fund Raising

Donor Pledges Dollars if Stephens College Workers Lose Pounds

August 22, 2010

A Stephens College alumna has promised to give her alma mater $1-million, with one weighty condition: Employees of the women's college in Columbia, Mo., must lose a total of 250 pounds by the stroke of midnight on January 1.

And if the college's president, Dianne M. Lynch, sheds at least 25 pounds, the donor will add $100,000 to her gift.

"This donation is unusual because it's not about a program or a scholarship or any other kind of naming opportunity," Ms. Lynch said on Friday. "It's about investing in the people who work at this college."

The unorthodox challenge grant comes from a health-conscious woman in Oregon who wishes to remain anonymous, Ms. Lynch said. Fit and fond of organic food, the wealthy benefactor believes that obesity is a serious problem in America and wants to give overweight people an incentive to lose pounds.

"The donor is an extraordinary example of a woman who's led a healthy lifestyle," Ms. Lynch said. "She's 87 years old and weighs exactly what she did when she married her husband—117 pounds. It's a point of pride for her that she has maintained her youthful physique."

When the alumna advised Ms. Lynch to lose weight, the college president proposed a bargain. She and her staff of about 200 employees would lose weight if the alumna would make a donation. The deal was set, Ms. Lynch said, and college employees planned to start their diets this past weekend.

Ms. Lynch said she was pleased she and her colleagues would have such an incentive to stay fit. Busy workers often forget to spend time exercising and preparing healthy meals, she said, and the donation will remind people that it is important.

"It's easy to talk about health and wellness, but it's another thing to live out our goals and best intentions," Ms. Lynch said. "Sometimes you just need that extra push, and a million dollars is one giant push."