lake and beyond
$5 million gift from Chris ’78 and Andrea Borch will create track and cross-country scholarships
Cameron Ponder ’22 hopes to become a professional runner. He is double majoring in economics and politics & international affairs, too.
The 21-year-old has been able to pursue his dreams to compete nationally and study at a private university because of a track scholarship established by Furman alumnus 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,” Ponder said.
“I’ve got the best of both worlds thanks to Mr. Borch and Furman.”
Now a new $5 million gift from the Borchs 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.”
But schools like Furman are facing challenging times, many curtailing or even eliminating some programs because they can’t fund them, he says.
“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,” says Borch. “And the only way to do that sustainably is to help the university build an endowment to support scholarships.”
Borch 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 off investment earnings.
“Once you have a significant endowment in place, it will grow over time … which ultimately translates hopefully into other kids who believe in the power of athletics to transform lives,” he says. “And they will continue to give back to Furman.”
Head Coach Robert Gary, who competed in the 1996 and 2004 Olympic Games, says it is the biggest athletic gift Furman has ever received.
“The gift will mean we are one of very few nationally competitive programs that are fully endowed … (which) helps our program’s stability,” he says. “It helps students get an education they otherwise might not get because they couldn’t afford it. At the heart of it is (the Borchs) want to provide as much opportunity as they can.”
“Furman University is deeply thankful for the friendship, leadership and generosity of Chris and Andrea Borch,” said Director of Athletics Jason Donnelly. “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. Furthermore, we are inspired by the Borch family’s commitment to the future as we embark on a $100 million campaign to support athletics scholarships.”
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, Gary said. Students have qualified for NCAA championships and Olympic trials.
Borch is CEO of Micro-Mechanics Inc., which builds high-precision mechanical tools used in the manufacture of semiconductor chips. It has five factories and employs about 500 people.
Ponder – a First Team All American from Winston-Salem, North Carolina, who runs long distance and steeplechase – is aiming for the Paris Olympics in 2024 and Los Angeles in 2028.
“It’s every runner’s dream, especially if you want to run professionally,” he said. “And I’m not too sure on a career yet. But I know that with the education I’ve gotten at Furman, I have a lot of options. I’m very grateful. And it will help me for the rest of my life.”