To hear Carol and John Hamilton praise Washington University in St. Louis, you might think they were born and bred WashU Bears. Not so. But they are among WashU’s biggest fans.
John grew up in St. Louis — a stone’s throw from campus. Generations of his family have attended and generously supported Washington University. His parents and maternal grandparents were graduates, his brother earned a law degree, and his uncle is an alumnus and emeritus trustee.
When John and Carol’s eldest child announced his preference for WashU over their own alma maters on both coasts, they were all in. One by one, each of their three children left the Bay Area for an unmatched education in the heart of the Midwest — at WashU.
Since the moment their eldest matriculated, the Hamiltons have continued to choose WashU both philanthropically and as volunteers.
In addition to endowed scholarships in engineering, the couple has made other meaningful gifts to WashU Athletics and student health and well-being programs to enhance the student experience. They have both served as chairs on the Washington University Parents Council and are deeply engaged in cultivating a vibrant WashU community among Bay Area alumni and parents. Most recently, they established a fund to advance university faculty and staff’s mental health awareness and responsiveness to students struggling on campus.
Why did your family choose WashU?
John: For me, growing up in the community, I see St. Louis as a special place. It has its challenges but is rich in culture and strong in values, values I grew up with. WashU is part of that. Chancellor Andrew Martin and his team are exceptional. Every person we have worked with at WashU has been on some level selfless. The openness to collaboration is Midwestern. It permeates the whole organization.
Carol: The archetype of the WashU leader is warm, brilliant and open. The handling of the pandemic is a great illustration of the warmth that WashU exudes. Associate Vice Chancellor and Dean of Students Rob Wild hosted live town halls for parents during the summer leading up to and throughout the pandemic year. The institution was not afraid of difficult questions and criticism.
Parents don’t always know what’s happening on campus, and in times of crisis, they need information to establish trust. WashU was willing to allow that dialogue and to listen and explain and be there for the parents — and our children. It was extremely impressive for a world-class institution to have that level of direct connection.
Why have you supported the WashU student experience?
Carol: Through the experiences of our kids, we know how important everything outside the classroom is — from residential life through health and wellness to athletics. Along the way, I learned a lot about WashU’s resources and outreach, especially in support of student well-being.
I became interested in how students succeed and what they need to succeed, and I saw WashU really wanting to build out a holistic program. It seemed like WashU was a place where, as parents, John and I could make a difference.
John: I have always felt very strongly about supporting education so that students can pursue what they truly love — whatever makes their socks go up and down. Young people start finding their roads in college and, as they try out new things and stretch themselves, so many of them need help. They need support systems. Carol and I try to make a difference by strengthening those systems in Athletics, in mental health resources and in community involvement. We want to help support the development of future leaders.
What is the value of a WashU education?
Carol: At WashU, I see so much willingness to help. The students are helping each other. They’re in study groups. They’re collaborative. They’re kind. Admissions does an outstanding job in cultivating this community.
And it’s not just the kids. It’s reflected in the leadership from the top down — the warmth and the collaboration, the interest in reaching out, combined with unsurpassed academic excellence. The WashU community transforms our students, and we parents are beneficiaries, too. We get to connect with all the remarkable parents of these amazing kids!
John: Let’s just say this: We hope our grandchildren get to go to WashU, too!