Belmont Abbey College announced a $100 million capital campaign on Saturday, and the private Catholic college in Gaston County has already collected $73 million toward that total.
The $100 million campaign includes:
• $15 million to help build a new monastery and performing arts center, as well as launch career and family programs aimed at building religious freedom.
• $30 million to fund new academic programs in nursing, public policy, and finance, increased advocacy for religious freedom, and enhancements to its Belmont House in Washington, D.C.
• $55 million to boost the college’s endowment and reduce – eventually eliminating – federal student aid, as well as provide the financial resources needed to become the employer of choice among its peers.
“This is one of the biggest events in the college’s history,” said Benedictine Abbot Placid Solari, who serves as chancellor and oversees the community of Benedictine monks on campus whose predecessors started the college in 1876.
Belmont Abbey College started tapping into wealthy donors more than two years ago in a “silent campaign” and has received some record-setting donations.
“We are humbled and grateful for the extraordinary support we have received through the silent phase of the campaign,” says Solari, “and we now invite alumni, students and families, and people across the region to help us close the funding gap and ensure that this type of education is available for future generations.”
The college of approximately 1,400 undergraduate students hopes to raise the remaining $28 million of its “Made True” campaign by 2026, which would be the 150th anniversary of its founding by Benedictine monks, says college President William Thierfelder. He joined the college 19 years ago.
College officials read a list of 10 that have given at least $1 million to the campaign. Another 40 have given $100,000 or more, totaling $11.2 million for the college.
Those giving $1 million or more included some well-known names across the state. Those contributors of at least $1 million include:
• Belmont native Howard “Humpy” Wheeler, former president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway, gave $1 million to the campaign. His father, Humpy Wheeler Sr., was a former athletic director at Belmont Abbey College.
• Dr. Peter Wittenberg and his wife, Ann, gave $1.6 million. Wittenberg is a pathologist in Gastonia.
• The estate of Ben Sargent, a member of the Belmont Abbey Class of 1940, gave $3.5 million.
• An anonymous $6 million gift from the parents of a Belmont Abbey College graduate.
• Retired Lincoln Financial executive Chuck Cornelio gave $7.5 million.
• The monks of Belmont Abbey College gave $10 million.
• A “friend” of the college gave $10 million and a graduate who wanted to remain anonymous gave $12 million.
• Pharmaceutical company executive George Horner, a 1966 Abbey graduate, gave $7 million.
• James Miller, who received an honorary doctorate of law degree from Belmont Abbey College in 2020, gave $1 million on Friday, Feb. 17.
College leaders and graduates, including U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Gastonia native and 2000 Abbey graduate, were on hand Saturday to present the campaign at an evening gala held at Founders Hall in Uptown Charlotte, a location about 20 miles east of the campus.
Belmont Abbey College has been growing in the last few years.
In 2019, Belmont Abbey struck a deal with CaroMont Health to build a hospital on the campus along Interstate 85. The roughly $195 million hospital with 54 beds is scheduled to be completed later this year.
The college also is constructing two new residence halls, a sports complex, and making improvements to the science and nursing centers to accommodate growth and enhance the student experience.