UW News

September 30, 2004

University Book Store: A history of philanthropy to the UW

News and Information

What organization has the longest tradition of philanthropy in connection with the UW? A strong case can be made for the University Book Store.

Indeed, tracing records back only to the 1970s (when the UW began keeping good records on gifts), the Book Store has donated more than $1 million to the UW. The gifts have gone to many different academic departments, the libraries, student organizations and athletics. However, the vast majority of gifts the store makes to the campus have been in the form of scholarships.

“There is a yearly discussion by our board members to determine how much we can give to support the campus,” says Bryan Pearce, CEO of the Book Store. “The earnings not needed to sustain and grow our business are delivered to the campus, primarily through the patronage refund, charitable giving and other support.”

Most people on campus are aware of the annual patronage rebates for students, faculty and staff. But few are likely to know that charitable giving to the UW has been part of the fabric of the Book Store since its beginning. Founded in 1900 by UW students, the Book Store’s original charter described four goals for the store. Three of them related to benefits to the UW community, and more specifically to students. Although the Book Store is a for-profit corporation, it is organized as a corporate trust, the beneficiaries of which are the individual UW students, faculty and staff — all of whom are represented on the board.

At its June 2004 meeting, the Book Store’s board decided to contribute to “Campaign UW: Creating Futures,” by establishing the University Book Store Student Scholarship Endowment. Over the next five years, the store will contribute $400,000, which will be matched through a university-wide program with an additional $200,000. The endowment, when completed, will provide full tuition scholarships for at least eight undergraduate and two graduate students annually.

“Our previous scholarship contributions have historically been on a pay-as-you-go basis, with decisions being made each year,” Pearce says. “But there was a strong desire among our board members to create a support entity that would exist and grow forever, and allow other interested parties to contribute to it as well. We fully comprehend the power of prudent investing and compounding earnings over time, which will provide greater and greater student support in the future. The 50 percent institutional match was also just too good to pass up.”

People in the Seattle area may take the University Book Store for granted, but it happens to be unique. It is one of the oldest and most respected college stores in the nation and it is the largest in terms of annual sales of merchandise consistent with its mission of service to the UW community — textbooks and course materials, general and reference books, technology products, supplies, and insignia apparel and souvenirs.

Moreover, its merchandise is specifically chosen to respond to the needs and interests of the campus community, whether a particular product is a money-maker or not. “There are certainly other retailers that compete with the Book Store in a number of merchandise categories, but none of them comes close to being as committed to the UW community as we are,” Pearce says.