Winthrop Smith Jr. & Lili Ruane

Winthrop Smith, Jr.

Improving Access to College

As a small college with extraordinary achievements and goals, Champlain College has won over Winthrop "Win" H. Smith Jr. and his wife, Lili Ruane.

Their involvement with the College, through the Build Your Own Business (BYOBiz) program, Vermont First and Single Parents scholarship funds, is inspired by Champlain's impact on students and the community, and impact of students on the world.

"It's a good feeling to see young people thrive in a supportive environment and become valuable and productive members of society," says Smith, principal owner and president of Sugarbush Resort in Warren, Vermont. "I've been extremely impressed with Champlain's curriculum, which focuses on both a liberal arts education and preparation for the real world."

For Ruane, hearing about the real-world experiences of scholarship recipients is enough to affirm support of the College.

"What an enormous difference these opportunities make in the lives of students who, because of their circumstances, would otherwise not have an opportunity to grow and succeed in the world. Helping single parents navigate through the challenge of being a parent and getting a degree changes the course of their children's lives. The Vermont First scholarship (for first-generation Vermont college students) also gives families the opportunity to change their destiny with the gift of education," she says.

At the annual Vehicle to a Better Life scholarships benefit event, students give testimonials. "It is so moving to hear their stories and know that every donation makes an enormous difference in so many lives," Ruane says. "There's at least one part of the evening when there's not a dry eye in the house. It makes you want to give." Smith, who received Champlain's 2012 Distinguished Citizen award, is on the executive advisory board of the BYOBiz program, which helps student entrepreneurs develop businesses. He was featured in the inaugural Speaking from Experience Entrepreneurship Lecture Series.

"BYOBiz is a unique program that offers students the opportunity to build a business plan and test their ideas while still in college," Smith says. "It's where students think, imagine and become entrepreneurs. It allows an element of realism as well as the opportunity to dream."

The couple encourage others to engage with Champlain and learn about the accomplishments of the College and its students. "Champlain is a campus that's being developed without an endowment," Smith says. "Take time to find out more about Champlain and its unique and effective approach to education, and support them in their mission."

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