Student Success at Heart of $8 Million Gift from Sally, ’75, and Sandy Cutler

The Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement will help students overcome obstacles to degree completion and empower them through graduation.

October 22, 2019

“Every graduate of Albion College has a chance to make a positive difference in our world,” says Sally (Stark) Cutler, ’75, pictured above with her husband, Sandy Cutler. “The concept of this Center is so very much an expression of what Albion is, and always has been, all about.”

The largest gift in the history of Albion College has a goal equally as large—providing students of greatest need with every opportunity possible to successfully navigate, and thrive, in the demanding and turbulent waters that are the college experience.

Impressed by Albion’s commitment to diversity and inclusion, Sarah Cutler (known to most as Sally), ’75, and her husband, Alexander (better known as Sandy), have given a landmark $8 million gift to create the Sarah S. and Alexander M. Cutler Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement to help smooth the path toward graduation for underrepresented, first-generation and other students in need.

“Albion College is a very special school and we want to help ensure that more young men and women have the opportunity to successfully navigate through their years at Albion toward a timely graduation,” Sally Cutler said. “Many young students, without any fault of their own, do not have college readiness skills and simply require additional help to move forward. We want to be part of the solution.”

The Cutler Center will commit to helping students in all stages of their college life, both large and small. A particular focus will be on individual mentoring that begins immediately after admission to Albion, before the student formally enrolls. The concentrated mentoring and advising, beyond academics, continues throughout and following the student’s first year, as they choose a major, explore experiential learning opportunities and prepare for their next steps after Albion.

“Successful matriculation is crucial in today’s competitive environment,” Cutler said. “With so many competing forces for the attention and priorities of young people today, we find the concept of programs that provide the necessary support to ensure a successful college experience critically important.”

The Center, which will also provide faculty curriculum support, is scheduled to be in operation by the start of the 2020-21 academic year and will be administered by a full-time director.

“This gift allows us to take all the factors that are standing in the way of making students successful and smoothing the road for them,” said Pamela Schwartz, director of the College’s Learning Support Center. “It is a very unusual gift and this is a very unusual school in its commitment to diversity. And this is something these students need.”

The Cutlers’ gift follows the last four years of Albion’s commitment to making the College, in the words of President Mauri Ditzler, “look more like America.” In the 2015 fall semester, 15 percent of Albion’s students were from underrepresented groups. This fall, that number is nearly 40 percent.

And Albion’s focus on diversity and inclusion has been recognized nationally.

In the latest U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges ranking, Albion tied for 63rd among national liberal arts colleges in the Top Performers on Social Mobility category and was also cited for its First-Year Experience program. Meanwhile, Washington Monthly magazine, in its annual college rankings, lauded Albion for its contribution to the public good across three categories—social mobility, research and promoting public service.

“Our students come from diverse backgrounds and have a variety of needs,” said Leroy Wright, Albion’s vice president for student development and dean of students. “With the support of the Cutler gift, this will assist Albion College in continuing to provide a network of strong support that aids in removing barriers and increasing access for students to succeed academically and socially.”

Wright emphasized that the gift, and the Center, will aid students throughout their total college experience at Albion. Of primary importance: finishing in four years. “This generation of students needs us more than ever to help rise above the challenges that may prevent them from persisting to graduation,” he said.

Added President Ditzler: “This generous and timely gift goes to the heart of what a liberal arts education can and must be. It provides real opportunities for many students to continue their education, to complete their degree and to begin their next chapter as prepared and motivated graduates.”

For Sally Cutler, whose Albion degree is in English, this moment offers another way for her to recall and appreciate her undergraduate experience.

“The concept of this Center is so very much an expression of what Albion is, and always has been, all about,” she said. “Albion cares for its students, teaches responsibility toward others and provides a safe and caring environment for everyone it serves. Every graduate of Albion College has a chance to make a positive difference in our world. They will have the ability to enhance their families as well as their communities at large.”

And Sandy Cutler believes the effort can go even further.

“We would love to see the Center for Student Success and Academic Achievement serve as a template for other institutions,” he said. “Positive change can happen in our country, and it is our sincere hope that this Center can act as a catalyst for those kind of changes. It is our privilege to be able to fund this effort.”

Albion College’s Mission:

Albion College is an undergraduate, liberal arts institution committed to academic excellence. We are learning-centered and recognize that valuable learning takes place in and outside the classroom, on and off campus. We prepare students to translate critical thought into action.