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$20 million gift from Brenda and Stéphane Bancel to Villanova U.
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$20 million gift from Brenda and Stéphane Bancel to Villanova U.

Villanova University President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, today announced a $20 million gift from Bancel Philanthropies to support students enrolled at Villanova as part of the University’s partnership with The Posse Foundation, one of the most prestigious college access, success and youth leadership development programs in the U.S. This transformational gift is the largest to fund scholarships in the history of Villanova and will fully cover the undergraduate education of a total of 50 Posse Scholars over the next five years.

“On behalf of the entire University, I would like to express my deepest gratitude for this remarkable gift,” said the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, OSA, PhD, University President. “Bancel Philanthropies shares our belief in Villanova as a place to educate the next generation of exceptional student leaders who will ignite change in their communities and beyond.”

Bancel Philanthropies is the family philanthropy of Brenda and Stéphane Bancel, and invests in people and programs with the potential to transform lives, advance justice and heal communities. “Stéphane and I believe that access to education helps students reach their full potential,” said Brenda Bancel. “The combination of Villanova and Posse will surely be a recipe that will launch these students into future leaders. We are grateful to both of these outstanding organizations for their commitment to develop, mentor and walk alongside the next generations of Posse fellows.”

The Posse Foundation partners with top universities and colleges from across the country to empower student leaders who transform communities, the nation and the world. Posse Scholars are selected from an extensive pool of academically exceptional students who might otherwise be overlooked through the traditional admissions process, including young leaders from diverse cultural, socio-economic, racial and religious backgrounds. Villanova announced its partnership with The Posse Foundation in 2019 and the first group of Villanova Posse Scholars, recruited from New Orleans, will graduate in May 2024.

Posse Scholars across the nation have proven to be among the most engaged and successful leaders on their respective campuses. The campus leadership and academic success of Posse Scholars have propelled numerous alumni to influential roles in the workforce, including Cleveland Cavaliers president of basketball operations, Koby Altman; chief communications officer for Boston Public Schools, Gabrielle Farrell; and cardiologist, associate professor at Yale School of Medicine and co-founder of Project Access-New Haven, Dr. Erica Spatz.

“Villanova’s rich academic environment is enhanced by intellectually curious and driven students with a diversity of experience and thought,” said Patrick G. Maggitti, University Provost. “This gift from Bancel Philanthropies helps to advance academic excellence at Villanova, ensuring that exceptional students who otherwise may not have joined our University community have the opportunity to do so.”

About Bancel Philanthropies: Bancel Philanthropies is the family philanthropy of Brenda and Stéphane Bancel, and invests in people and programs with the potential to transform lives, advance justice and heal communities. Our goal is to fully exert our belief in the goodness of humanity through building relationships with community leaders. We fund projects that speak to the fundamental emotion that nurtures us through hardship and sustains the human heart: love. Our funding priorities are creating equitable access to education, increasing food security, reducing health inequities, bolstering interfaith initiatives, reducing racial inequities, supporting trauma survivors and vulnerable communities, improving youth mental health and social isolation, and stewarding sustainable conservation and food systems. To learn more, visit

About The Posse Foundation: Posse was founded in 1989 by Deborah Bial—inspired by a student who said, “I never would’ve dropped out of college if I’d had my posse with me.” The simple idea of sending a group of students together to college so they could “back each other up” became the impetus for a program that today has identified, recruited and trained more than 9,200 students with extraordinary academic and leadership potential. Vanderbilt University was Posse’s first partner school, awarding scholarships to five students from New York City. Since then, the program has expanded to 10 major cities and grown to include STEM and post 9/11 U.S. Veterans initiatives. To date, Posse Scholars have won more than $1.4 billion in scholarships from 58 partner colleges and universities. Since opening its doors 30 years ago, Posse has received many significant acknowledgements. Notably, Bial was awarded a MacArthur “Genius” Fellowship in 2007, and in 2010 President Barack Obama honored Posse with a portion of his Nobel Peace Prize grant. To learn more, visit

About Villanova University: Since 1842, Villanova University’s Augustinian Catholic intellectual tradition has been the cornerstone of an academic community in which students learn to think critically, act compassionately, and succeed while serving others. There are more than 10,000 undergraduate, graduate, and law students in the University’s six colleges—the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Villanova School of Business, the College of Engineering, and the M. Louise Fitzpatrick College of Nursing, the College of Professional Studies and the Villanova University Charles Widger School of Law. Ranked among the nation’s top universities, Villanova supports its students’ intellectual growth and prepares them to become ethical leaders who create positive change everywhere life takes them.

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