Willow Society Highlight: Thomas Pursley’s Bequest from His Retirement Plan Celebrates the Value of a Liberal Arts Education

Photo of Thomas Pursley and his grandchildren

On the cusp of Colgate's Bicentennial, Tom Pursley '66 decided he wanted to make a lasting, permanent impact on Colgate's future. Recently, he made this happen by pledging a bequest of some of his retirement-plan assets. In doing so, he sent the following message, which he agreed to let us share. His story gives an example of a liberal arts education in action.

Colgate also made my father a believer in the value of a liberal arts education. He had always thought of college as a career training school to become a scientist, or engineer, or doctor, or teacher.

One day he asked me to accompany him to the home of a very prominent businessman for whom he was doing a project. While they were talking business, I wandered around the man’s library and pulled out a book that we had used in Core 21 (Music and the Visual Arts) at Colgate. The client turned around and noticed me looking at that book. He asked if I liked modern art and I answered yes. He asked me to bring the book over to his desk and opened it to a particular page. He pointed to a picture of a large painting that he was very proud of. The caption said the painting was on loan to the Museum of Modern Art in New York from his private collection. We then talked about modern art for five to ten minutes before he turned back to continue working with my father.

As my father was driving down the very long driveway that went up to the house, he turned to me and said he always thought that studying liberal arts was sort of a frivolous pursuit. But, he said that he was extremely impressed with the level and extent of the conversation about modern art that I had with his client. He never realized that a subject like modern art could be so useful in a business context. Now he said that he understood the value of a liberal arts education. I smiled in appreciation of his compliment and silently said “thank Colgate and Core 21!”


The discussion herein is general in nature and may not apply to all individuals. Prospective donors are urged to consult their personal tax and financial advisors concerning the specific consequences of making gifts to Colgate. We would be pleased to discuss, in confidence, ways in which you may support Colgate. These measures may also have an impact on your estate planning.

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