I drove to his [Jack Eckerd’s] Clearwater office in early 1971. We greeted warmly and I moved immediately to the issue. “Jack, as a trustee, you know the situation at the College well.” I paused, swallowed deeply, braced my back, and with all the executive and persuasive rhetoric I could muster, continued.
“I have given the College my best shot. We have a splendid academic program with bright students and outstanding faculty. But that huge debt from the early years is killing us. We need help and need it fast.” Then, my punchline.
“As we have talked before, someday the lights will go out on Eckerd Drugs. You will likely merge or be absorbed by a larger company. And the day is coming when you will not be running the company. If you really want to leave a legacy, you will put your name on this college and thus ensure your values in perpetuity. Colleges change their names only once.”
I paused, catching my breath, wanting to finish before getting his response. “The College is high-quality, private, innovative, and has great potential. All the things you stand for. Are there any circumstances under which you would give the College $10 million? If you would do that, it would be an honor for me to recommend that the College become Eckerd College.
“I know you don’t want that, but to be in the company of John Harvard, Leland Stanford, James B. Duke and Cornelius Vanderbilt will be a source of joy and pride for your friends and family.” I stopped, waiting for his response. It came in a surprising question: “Will $10 million do it?”
“We will need a lot more, but this would pay off the short-term debt and give us a base endowment from which to build,” I responded. His next response was less encouraging. “I probably won’t do it, but it is an interesting idea.”