A Swan Hall Alumnus Makes Good
Steve Hinchliffe '55's first two years at Oxy did not portend greatness. Living in Swan Hall—known for its sketchy extracurricular activities—Steve, to put it charitably, underperformed academically. When economics professor Laurence De Rycke failed Steve for handing in part of his accounting final half an hour late, few would have predicted that he would go on to earn a Harvard MBA, develop into an entrepreneur of national renown, and become one of Oxy's longest-serving trustees.
We recently dedicated Hinchliffe Hall, the Swan Hall annex we built in 2012, in recognition of the leadership and generosity Steve and his family have demonstrated over the last half-century. Steve, who is retiring from the Board of Trustees, has a tenure equaled by few. His service on the board is surpassed only by the Rev. William S. Young (grandfather of Steve's classmate, Cathie Selleck '55) who helped found the College in 1887 and was a trustee for the next 50 years.
As longtime friend and fellow trustee John Power '58 said at the dedication, "Steve has been a leader of the Oxy board for decades, which is not just a question of titles but rather the impact of his stature and actions. Steve has a rare combination of qualities one treasures in a trustee, and is an example to us all: He is an articulate advocate with excellent judgment; a sharp inquisitive intelligence; collegiality; huge relevant external experience; a deep knowledge of the College, its history, and its place in higher education; and an entrepreneurial spirit."
Steve joined the Alumni Board of Governors in 1965 and was appointed to the Board of Trustees in 1970, where he has served in a variety of roles ever since. The Hinchliffes have provided regular financial support for the College for five decades, and are among Oxy's most generous benefactors. At the family's request much of that giving, which has focused on student scholarships, has been without fanfare.
Steve's reason for giving is as straightforward as he is: He received an excellent education at Occidental and wants to make sure that other students will have the same opportunity he and wife Ann '57; brother Doug '64 and wife Robin '60; son John '88; and grandson Ryan Link '18 have had.
It's leaders like Steve—and now his daughter, Lisa Link, who recently joined the Board of Trustees—who have helped make Oxy what it is today. And we've never had a greater need for this brand of leadership. As I told alumni at Reunion Weekend, the cost of college is the biggest existential crisis we face. People don't come to Oxy to sit in large lecture halls with hundreds of other students; they come for a meaningful relationship with their professors, inside and outside the classroom. A liberal arts education is a labor-intensive enterprise. Salaries are our single largest budget item.
As costs rise, financial aid is no longer just for low-income families. Today, more than 70 percent of our students receive some form of financial aid. And that's still not enough. Student scholarships—like those supported by Steve and his family—are vitally important to Occidental's future.
Our business office has done a superb job of managing our financial affairs, as recent ratings from Moody's, Forbes, and the U.S. Department of Education testify. Yet as things stand right now, every year our situation deteriorates ever so slightly, like the drip of a melting glacier.
Not every Oxy family can support the College at the same level as the Hinchliffes, of course. Nor is that necessary to make a real difference. One quilt at a time, the Occidental College Women's Club has stitched together an endowment of more than $1 million for scholarship support.
What the Hinchliffe family, the Women's Club, and thousands of other alumni all share is a deep appreciation of the value of an Oxy education, a desire to make it available to new generations, and an appreciation of the resources needed to make that possible. The College and I are deeply grateful for their support. I look forward to working with a new generation of Oxy leaders who will have the same powerful impact that Steve and his family have had on their alma mater.