Matt Winkler helps to write Kenyon’s future

With his leadership, giving and vocal encouragement, Winkler wants more alumni to join him in supporting the ‘endless journey’ of Kenyon.

Matt Winkler ’77 P’13 H’00

Matt Winkler ’77 P’13 H’00 was the editor of the Collegian his sophomore year, worked for the Mount Vernon News part-time as a student and went on to a career in journalism that included co-founding Bloomberg News in 1990 as editor-in-chief. A history major and lifelong journalist, Winkler’s own narrative has never strayed far from Kenyon. As a Kenyon parent as well as member of the Board of Trustees, Kenyon Review Board and steering committee for the Center for the Study of American Democracy, Winkler is especially passionate about highlighting distinguished faculty members.

Yet for all his own volunteer work and giving to Kenyon, Winkler remains focused on doing what he can to include more of his fellow alumni in the Kenyon story. “I’ve been saying as long as I can remember: it doesn’t matter whether you give one dollar or a million of them, as long as you give. It’s the practice that matters. If everybody who went to Kenyon gave a dollar for every month of the year, we wouldn’t be worried about our endowment,” Winkler said.

Leading by example, Winkler made his first small gift the year after he graduated. Now, he is one of the largest donors to the Our Path Forward to the Bicentennial campaign, for which he is also a member of the leadership committee. He directs his giving to many areas, including creating a fund used to promote alumni giving to the Kenyon Fund, support for need-based scholarships and the Kenyon Review and creating a professorship named for Peter Rutkoff, his former advisor.

“I’m fortunate in so many of the things that I’ve been able to do professionally and personally,” Winkler said, crediting Kenyon for much of his success. “It’s hard to find anything comparable in our lives that is so formative. If I had to think about just one part of my life that in all ways really addressed who I am as a person, what are my values and what do I stand for, so much of that occurred in those four years. So to the extent that I’m benefitting years later, my appreciation of Kenyon only increases in time.”

Winkler’s significant investments in Kenyon have been recognized in the new Chalmers Library, where the atrium, with echoes of the natural bright light that welcomed him in 1973, bears his name. The library was opened to students this week and will have a formal dedication in October.

Nina Freedman ’77 H’92, a friend, classmate and fellow member of the Board of Trustees, said that “it has been an honor to have a front row seat watching as Matt passionately encourages more alumni to give to Kenyon — at any level. Matt is a personal inspiration, his commitment to equity and inclusion in all that he does guides his belief in giving back to Kenyon.”

Winkler, who lives in the New York area, is now the Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of Bloomberg News, a media empire that provides financial data and news to customers worldwide. In this role, Winkler gains insight into another key area for Kenyon, increasing access and diversity. “If everybody looks alike and sounds alike, there isn’t the innovation that is necessary for achievement,” he said. “Innovation is the best way to create value and innovation comes as a direct result of diversity. If Kenyon wants to be evermore excellent, the one thing it has to focus on more so than ever is diversity.”

The forthcoming strategic plan will explore the critical importance of this access, which is also at the heart of the ongoing $500 million campaign, more than a third of which emphasizes growing the endowment for scholarships to help Kenyon become less reliant on tuition dollars.

David Horvitz ’74 H’98, tri-chair of the campaign leadership committee, acknowledged the breadth and depth of Winkler’s investment and insight as a member of the board. “One of the things I’ve learned as a member of the board for so many years is that our financial model is tough. We compete for every student, every faculty member, every administrator, with schools that have more money than we have. We now have the best library of any small college in America and it’s absolutely fitting that the central space in our community hub bears Matt’s name, since he has worked so tirelessly to bring more alumni back to Kenyon, literally and figuratively,” Horvitz said.

Winkler and his wife, Lisa, have three children, including Lydia Winkler ’13, who majored in American studies and went on to earn business and law degrees from Tulane University and co-found RentCheck, an app that aims to increase transparency and reduce disputes between tenants and landlords.

In a perfectly Kenyon bit of fortuitousness that supports Winkler’s own theory of the place,  Lydia also had Rutkoff as her advisor. “Truly, Kenyon is as much an endless journey as it is a timeless place,” he said. “And alumni participation addresses exactly that point.”

"I was giving a dollar a month for seven straight years while I was in grad school," said Nicolyn Woodcock '12, when asked why she has chosen to consistently support the Kenyon Fund. "Even now I don't give that much more. I increased it to five dollars a month because I'm only two years out of grad school, but it is an amount of money I know I can give. It doesn't stretch me too far. And when I run the math, with just over 20,000 living alumni, if every one of us was giving a one dollar or five dollars a month, that's a significant amount of money for the Kenyon Fund."

Gifts of all sizes are the foundation of a lifetime connection to Kenyon and its future. And they really do add up. If each one of the alumni who didn’t give to Kenyon last year gave just $1 a month, it would add up to more than $150,000 a year — which is roughly equivalent to the annual payout of a $3.5 million endowment.