A mysterious millionaire has spent the past month dumping nearly $45 million in the laps of cash-strapped colleges across the country - under the condition that no one know his or her real identity.
The stealthy donor has swooped in to aid schools nationwide, from the University of Maryland on the East Coast to the University of Mississippi in the south, never publicly attaching his or her name to the gifts.
The catch? The schools lucky enough to receive one of the mystery donor's gifts have to promise they won't try to find out who he or she is.
Some institutions have tried -- and failed -- to get at the giver's identity, going so far as to consult the Department of Homeland Security or the IRS in an attempt to trace the funds.
"In my last 28 years in fundraising ... this is the first time I've dealt with a gift that the institution didn't know who the donor is," said Phillip D. Adams, vice president for university advancement at Norfolk State University, which received $3.5 million from the anonymous angel.
The gifts range from $1.5 million to $8 million in cash, in either cashier's checks or transferred through a law firm or other middleman. They all come with one stipulation: that they're used for student scholarships, not to beef up staff or trustee salaries.
University officials said the larger-than-life donations could help keep them afloat as the recession empties endowment funds and school savings.
"It was a remarkable gift particularly during these economic times," said David Wolf, vice president of advancement at the University of Southern Mississippi. The $6 million donated was the largest single gift ever bestowed to the school.
It was unclear whether the donations came from a group of people or a single source.
In all, the mysterious donor gave $8 million to Purdue University, $1.5 million to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, $7 million to the University of Iowa, $6 million each to the University of Southern Mississippi, the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and the University of Maryland at College Park and $5.5 million to the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.