Going the Distance for Furman Students
$5 million gift from Chris ’78 and Andrea Borch will endow track and cross-country scholarships.
By Liv Osby
Cameron Ponder ’22 dreams of becoming a professional runner.
But in the meantime, the economics and politics and international affairs double major has been able to pursue two other opportunities – to compete nationally and to study at Furman. Both are thanks to a track scholarship established by Chris Borch ’78, his wife, Andrea, and the Borch Foundation.
“The scholarship really set me up well to experience some great races … and I’m working on two degrees at one of the best liberal arts schools in the country,” says Ponder, a First Team All American from Winston Salem, North Carolina, who runs long distance and steeplechase.
“I’ve got the best of both worlds thanks to Mr. Borch and Furman,” he says.
Now a new $5 million gift from the couple will help establish an endowment to provide cross-country/track and field scholarships for students like Ponder.
Borch ran cross-country/track and field as a student and received a scholarship he lauds as “probably one of the first big breaks in my life.”
“It opened the door not only to a great education, but being on the track team was the beginning of learning some lessons that have just been invaluable to me in every aspect of my life,” he says. “And one of the first … is that success is in direct proportion to having a goal and working hard.”
Borch is CEO of Micro-Mechanics Inc., which builds high-precision mechanical tools used in the manufacture of semiconductor chips. The company has five factories and employs about 500 people.
“I think athletics is an incredibly important part of education. It teaches resiliency and persistence and having a passion for things. But it has to be funded,” he says. “And the only way to do that sustainably is to help the university build an endowment to support scholarships.”
The couple made an initial gift of $250,000 in 2005, which combined with gifts from others, has grown to approximately $14 million This new gift, along with others and investment growth, will bring the endowment
to $20 million, allowing scholarships to be funded through investment earnings.
Furman head coach Robert Gary, who competed in the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games, says it is the biggest gift to Furman Athletics.
“The gift will mean we are one of very few nationally competitive programs that are fully endowed … (which) helps our program’s stability,” says Gary. “It helps students get an education they otherwise might not get because they couldn’t afford it.”
Furman cross-country/track and field is nationally recognized, placing 10th for men and 25th for women out of more than 300 programs in Division I cross country. Furman students have qualified for NCAA championships and Olympic trials.
“We are grateful for Chris and Andrea’s vision and belief in the impact of the student-athlete experience and appreciate head coach Robert Gary’s success and stewardship, which enabled this gift to become a reality,” says Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly. “Furthermore, we are inspired by the Borch family’s commitment to the future as we embark on an effort to grow the endowment for athletics scholarships to $100 million.”
Meanwhile, Ponder is aiming for the Paris Olympics in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.
“I know that with the education I’ve gotten at Furman, I have a lot of options,” he says. “I’m very grateful.”