Christopher Toft ’89 and Nicole Dunn Toft ’92 are not so much a Kenyon love story as they are a Kenyon young alumni love story.
They never met on campus but connected later at a Chicago concert of another Kenyon alumnus. Nicole picked Chris out of the crowd because of his Kenyon ballcap, and he still has it today. “He calls it his ‘how we met’ hat,” she said.
The Tofts did return to campus to marry, then started their careers and became two of the young alumni who made a gift that qualified for the first group of Fifty Under 50 donors in the We Are Kenyon campaign. The program encouraged young alumni to stretch their resources to make a significant gift, and by the end of that campaign in 2011, more than 50 donors under the age of 50 had committed $8.8 million for a variety of purposes.
“There’s no question that marrying a Kenyon alumna made a difference in my relationship to the College,” Chris Toft said. “I have a stronger bond to campus now. Donating to Kenyon is nothing we have to question between us.”
Now the vice president of development for Advocate Illinois Masonic Medical Center in Chicago, Toft will lead efforts to form another Fifty Under 50 cohort in the current Our Path Forward campaign. He will be joined by several Kenyon Fund Executive Committee members — Will Enloe ’94, team chair; Todd Giardinelli ’94; and Sheldon Kimber ’99.
Sixteen members of the first Fifty Under 50 class have served on the Kenyon College Board of Trustees, others have led Kenyon volunteer groups, and two — Rose Brintlinger Fealy ’84 and James F. Parker ’81 P’10 — are now two of the three chairs of the Our Path Forward campaign.
“It’s amazing the number of that first group who have become members of the Board of Trustees,” Toft said. “The Fifty Under 50 was a pretty good predictor of future involvement in the College. People were putting their hand up and saying: Do come to me and ask me to help.”
Donors can join the newest class of Fifty Under 50 by committing at least $50,000 to Kenyon by the time they turn 50, with the gift payable over five years. These young donors will be part of an exclusive group who may become Kenyon’s future leaders.
The new Fifty Under 50 program encourages commitments to the Kenyon Fund of $50,000 or more. Those who want to give in a more targeted way may give to a general Fifty Under 50 endowment for a permanent legacy or give to a Fifty Under 50 current operating fund for internships, research and other high-impact experiences outside the classroom.
Some younger alumni also work with family foundations to make a Fifty Under 50 gift to Our Path Forward.
The Tofts’ Fifty Under 50 gift to the We Are Kenyon campaign established the Dunn-Toft Endowed Scholarship Fund in 2007 to provide financial aid to first-generation college students.
Nicole said, “I was a first-generation college student, so establishing that scholarship was important to me. It’s not a big scholarship, but it helps.”
Nicole remembered giving to the Kenyon Fund as a young alumna: “I was in no place to give a lot financially. I was a teacher! I would give $50 to the annual fund. But I started early, and I stayed engaged with the College, with my friends and with professors. And then the message of Fifty Under 50 was that people just getting started in their professional lives should give whatever they can give; that will keep them engaged until they are in a place where they can give more.”