Rosalind Sallenger never graduated from Winthrop University, but officials there are glad she attended.
Sallenger married Jerry Richardson, who went on to become a professional football player, a food magnate and then founder and majority owner of the Carolina Panthers.
Richardson, whose wife kept in touch with her friends from Winthrop, recently donated $500,000 to the school to establish the Rosalind Sallenger Richardson scholarship, which will be awarded to a high-achieving rising senior at the university.
Richardson's gift highlights the importance of relationships when it comes to private fundraising, officials at Winthrop and other universities said.
Such gifts - increasingly important as state funding dries up in these troubled economic times - don't just fall out of the sky, school officials said.
"Most of the time, it is a long-term relationship," said Brian Lewis, Winthrop's vice president for development and alumni relations. "It reflects that lifelong relationship with the university."
Rosalind Richardson's relationship with Winthrop dates to her attendance there in the late 1950s.
According to a statement released by the university, she agreed to marry Richardson while still a student.
Apparently, neither she nor her husband forgot about the school as the years went by.
Rosalind Richardson had been selected freshman beauty queen and served as secretary of the sophomore class at Winthrop.
In 1996, the university gave her an honorary bachelor of arts degree.
She is expected to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the class of 1960 this coming spring.
"While Rosalind was attending Winthrop College, it was my good fortune that she agreed to marry me, and I have tried to take good care of her ever since," Richardson said. "It will give me great pleasure to honor my wife, Rosalind, with an endowed scholarship."
Lewis said the Richardson gift has importance beyond its monetary value.
"It's like a vote of confidence, a very public vote of confidence," Lewis said. "It's not the largest gift we've ever received, but because it comes from someone who clearly has been successful and who has such a high profile, it might catch the attention of someone else. We appreciate that the Richardsons appreciate that and have been public about their support."
Chris Myers, senior director of development at USC, said it's not always easy to convince donors to be public about their generosity.
Myers, who is responsible for helping the university secure "principal gifts" - those of $1 million or more - said donors are most interested in helping the university, not drawing attention to themselves.
"The donors, when they make big gifts, are really interested in what's going on at the heart of the university," Myers said. "And that's the students and the faculty."
Sometimes, Myers said, she and her colleagues will try to arrange for potential donors to interact with faculty members. They will contact faculty and staff members who worked at the school when the potential donor was a student there.
"They have that emotional connection that developed when they lived in the halls," Myers said. "It may be decades old, but it's still there."
Myers spends some of her time on the telephone with wealthy donors, answering questions and suggesting areas where they might help.
The conversations, she said, are unfailingly polite.
"I'm frequently in touch with multimillion dollar donors," she said. "They are not arrogant, pushy people. They love the university. I've never had one of these super-wealthy people comport themselves badly."
Even in tough economic times, universities can have success raising private funds.
USC, for example, raised a record $107.5 million from 46,469 donors during the fiscal year that ended on June 30.
Many of those donors are not wealthy, Myers said.
Those who were wealthy at the start of the economic downturn are still in a position to help the university, she said. And they do.
"People who are exceptionally wealthy can still afford to make these principal gifts and often see times like these as the best time to give because of the impact," she said. "It's not just the uber-wealthy. Everybody who can give realizes that now is the time more than ever."