Colgate Alumni Support Arts, Creativity, and Innovation with Recent Major Gifts, Endowments

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Benton Center Rendering
By Mary Donofrio May 11, 2023

In recent months, several Colgate alumni have contributed major gifts to arts, creativity, and innovation initiatives within the Third-Century Plan, helping the Campaign for the Third Century advance toward its ambitious $1 billion goal. 

Many gifts have been directed to the Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation, which will serve as the heart of Colgate’s reimagined Middle Campus and enhance collaboration across divisions, from the sciences to the humanities. 

Similarly, funds to establish endowed positions will help support the continued exploration of new ideas at Colgate, providing Colgate students invaluable exposure to a broad and diverse range of perspectives in the arts and technology.

Fred Klein ’96, Support for the Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation 

As an undergraduate in the mid-1990s, Fred Klein knew only that he wanted a “creative career,” he says. Traditional fields like banking and law — the paths chosen by many of his closest friends and Beta Theta Pi brothers — didn’t appeal to him.

Klein liked the idea of becoming an actor; he got a taste of Hollywood as an extra in Al Pacino’s 1992 Oscar-winning Scent of a Woman, filmed at his high school, Horace Mann School, in the Bronx. (“I played ‘generic prep school kid in the background,’” he says.) 

He took a few acting classes at Colgate, but found his passion in the production world during a junior-year internship at MTV Studios in New York. He went on to a decades-long career in media production, and today, works as a consultant for Sound and Fury, the media and entertainment consultancy firm he founded in 2020. 

With his gift supporting the Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation, Klein hopes to provide current and future Colgate students with opportunities to explore careers in the arts and entertainment world while still on campus.

“I wish I had understood earlier that I didn’t need to be a performer or an artist to enrich people’s lives through art,” he says. “To me, the Benton Center is a big step forward in opening students’ eyes early on to careers in the arts, and to providing a broader understanding of what it means to be in a creative pursuit.”

Liz Hartman ’80, P’10, The Elizabeth Hartman ’80 Fellowship for Visiting Arts 

For Liz Hartman, the highlight of her Colgate years was an experience far from campus. On a study group in India with Professor William Skelton during her senior year, Hartman was part of a dance group assigned to perform a traditional Indian dance opera. 

“It was the most rigorous, intense experience of my life,” says Hartman, who had always loved dance (she was a Raiderette back on campus), but appreciated the artform in a new way after the trip. “After the performance, I felt like I could conquer anything.”

The experience taught her the value of exposure — something she hopes the Elizabeth Hartman 80 Fellowship for Visiting Arts will provide to generations of Colgate students. 

Established in early 2023 through an estate gift, the fellowship will provide permanent funding for bringing visionary dancers, choreographers, and performing and visual artists to campus. 

“The more ideas you’re exposed to, the broader your perspective becomes,” says Hartman, who believes that Colgate’s reimagined Middle Campus is a powerful reaffirmation of Colgate’s liberal arts tradition.

“By investing in the arts in this way, Colgate is making no apologies for being a liberal arts school,” she says. “That’s just thrilling to me.”

Rob Gould ’73, Support for the Benton Center for Creativity and Innovation

Rob Gould has been fascinated by Japanese art for decades. As a Colgate student in the early 1970s, Gould spent a semester at Kyoto University, where he studied economic development. While his academic pursuits — and, later, his career in financial services at Bain and PricewaterhouseCoopers — focused on the economies of the Eastern world, he always found himself drawn to the “mystical aesthetic” of Japanese paintings and silk screens. 

In learning about Colgate’s Third-Century Plan, Gould was especially interested in the Middle Campus initiative, which encompasses Colgate’s visual arts programs. Gould was eager to support the Benton Center, hoping to inspire the next generation of artists and innovators.

“I know how much art has enriched my life,” he says, “so I am pleased to know Colgate is moving more resources in that direction.”

Carrie Clifford 93 and Chris Clifford 67, H11, P93, The Clifford Family Innovator in Residence 

Carrie Clifford understands the value of experimentation and collaboration. 

She began her career in the world of improvisational comedy as a cast member with Chicago’s famed Second City. Today, she’s an actor, producer, and writer with a résumé that includes The Office, Bob’s Burgers, Longmire, and many more. 

But before finding professional success, Clifford was an art and art history student at Colgate. In a film class with John Knecht, Russell Colgate Distinguished University Professor of film and media studies emeritus, she distinctly remembers a visit from acclaimed independent filmmaker James Benning, who shared his latest film and spent time working with students.

“We got to hear about his process and ask him questions. I incorporated some of what he taught us in my senior project,” Clifford recalls. “Years later, when I lived in Chicago, he came to town with his latest film. I went to see it and talked with him afterwards. It was inspiring.”

The experience also inspired Clifford’s philanthropy.

In early 2023, along with her father, trustee emeritus Chris Clifford, Carrie established the Clifford Family Innovator in Residence. The funding will help Colgate bring innovators and artists to campus for short or longer-term residencies to teach classes, workshops, and work with students and faculty on innovation, entrepreneurship, making, and design projects.

“I know how impactful short visits from artists were during my time at Colgate, so imagine what impact an Innovator in Residence could have over a few months or a semester,” she says.

Chris Clifford, too, understands the importance of exploring new perspectives. He is co-founder and former managing director and senior advisor for Berkshire Partners LLC, and he credits his professional success to his “willingness to experiment and take risks,” he says.

“Throughout my career, I’ve always found that the most exciting insights and breakthroughs happen at the fringes, where different disciplines interact,” he says. “In an academic environment, it’s especially important to revisit assumptions and look at things through different prisms. It is our hope that the Innovator in Residence helps faculty and students do just that.”