Class gathering outside

Matching Gift Challenge: Coming Together to Give Back

For Marcy Owens Test, SIS/BA ’89, it was the transformative experience of studying in Argentina. Eleanor Lally, CAS/MA ’70, values how music and education merged to enrich her career. And Jill Black, SOC/BA ’83, is advancing her strong belief that technology and entrepreneurship are crucial in innovative policy solutions.

Deeply impacted by an aspect of their American University education, these women have stepped forward to meet a match grant challenge that magnifies their philanthropy. The challenge from an anonymous donor encourages new gifts that support scholarships, internships, or student experience funds. This match increases AU’s endowment and helps fortify its future, both key goals of the Change Can’t Wait campaign’s Lead pillar.     

“The donor behind the challenge was the first person in his family to go to college,” said James Corey, AU’s assistant vice president of development. “He was a scholarship student and had to work throughout his college experience. He and his family want students to be able to have opportunities that he couldn’t.”

Campaign Highlight
Matching Gift Challenge
An anonymous donor will provide a $25,000 match for each of 10 new $100,000 endowed scholarship gifts to AU.

The donor will provide a $25,000 match to each of the 10 new $100,000 endowed gifts.

Test is a member of the Dean’s Board of Advisors at the School of International Service (SIS). She and her husband, Daniel, are longtime donors whose philanthropy has included support for a music practice room and gifts to the Dean’s Fund at SIS. When Test heard that SIS Dean Christine Chin was prioritizing study abroad, she and her family jumped on board to support the grant challenge.

A study abroad semester nearly 35 years ago left a deep imprint on the alumna’s life. She forged a lifelong connection with her hosts, saw the world through a new lens, and became fluent in Spanish.

“That study abroad in Buenos Aires was the most lasting and significant part of my AU experience,” said Test, senior vice president at commercial real estate firm CBRE Inc. “It was only the second year AU offered the program, and I found myself with students from all over the world. With my host family, we now have a friendship that has lasted three generations.

“The human connection that was made has been a major contributor to who I am and what I think of the world,” said Test, who studied international service and economics.

Lally’s gift is also deeply personal. She set up an endowed scholarship for students with financial need in the Department of Performing Arts. She taught music for some years at the Marine Corps Base Quantico before enrolling in the graduate program in music education at AU to gain the credentials to continue as an educator.

“I was pleased with the kind of classes I was able to take at American University. I knew I was getting a good education and the faculty was encouraging in a lot of different ways,” she said. “They were very good about giving me ideas I hadn’t thought of myself.”

One of those ideas was to apply for a graduate assistantship that allowed her to work in AU’s music library, which held musical scores and vinyl records. The university now has a digitized historic sheet music collection.

Black, who sits on the university’s Campaign Committee, points her philanthropy toward the future. Black worked in the TV and movie industry at Hal Roach Studios before starting her own public relations company, Black Ink. For the last 20 years, she has worked in her family real estate business. The Jill Black Endowed Scholarship Fund benefits School of Public Affairs students who are entrepreneurial in addressing public policy issues.

“I want students to believe that their ideas are valid and to support them,” said Black. “Remember that FedEx was an idea in college. Students need to feel their ideas are worth something.”

In support of Change Can’t Wait, the match challenge will enable more students access to an AU education and the power of the AU community.

“One of its key advantages,” Corey said, “is that it allows our students to see that alumni care for them. In addition, by adding to the university’s endowment, the challenge expands AU’s ability to create change where it’s needed most.”