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Published June 23, 2020

By Amy Vames

Gift 30 years in the making will enhance university’s ability to recruit more outstanding student-athletes in Olympic sports

A $300,000 bequest by the estate of a school teacher who was a star Rutgers lacrosse and football player nearly a century ago has grown into a $4 million gift to endow scholarships for student-athletes who compete in eight Olympic sports.

photo of david bender, a football letterwinner, and a coach at rutgers until world war ii.
David Bender (second from right on the bench) who graduated from Rutgers College in 1925, was a 1924 All-America lacrosse player, a football letterwinner, and a coach at Rutgers until World War II. (Photo credit: Rutgers University Archives)

The scholarships will enhance Rutgers’ ability to recruit top student-athletes in men’s lacrosse, golf, soccer, and track and field; wrestling; and women’s tennis, gymnastics, and field hockey and make the university even more competitive among its Big Ten® peers.

The gift from the David T. Bender Trust—which also provided an investment learning opportunity for students at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick—is one of the largest in Rutgers Athletics history.

David Bender, who graduated from Rutgers College in 1925, was a 1924 All-America lacrosse player, a football letterwinner, and a coach at Rutgers until World War II. He later was a gym teacher at Rahway High School in New Jersey.

During his time at Rutgers, the Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, native was a tackle and center on the famed 1923 and 1924 football squads, which posted identical 7-1-1 records. Bender’s achievements led to his induction into the Rutgers Football Hall of Fame and the establishment in 1947 of the David Bender Trophy, awarded each year to Rutgers’ top offensive and defensive linemen.

“Mr. Bender wanted to pass on his love of being a Scarlet Knight, and because of his generosity and keen investments, his impact has grown exponentially,” said Carly Northup, senior associate athletic director for development. “Eight endowed scholarships will give us a significant boost in competing with our Big Ten peers.”

Upon his death in 1980, the David T. Bender Trust was created and invested his bequest of $300,000 to Rutgers with the goal of growing the fund to $4 million, at which time it would transfer to Rutgers to benefit student-athletes.

“David Bender was helped as a young man by playing sports at Rutgers and he wanted to show gratitude,” said trust chair Greg Francfort. “A schoolteacher’s gift of $300,000 turned into $4 million because of a lesson in compounding interest and wise investments in the stock market.”

The trust made the gift in support of The Bells Must Ring, a campaign that is part of R Fund, which raises funds for Rutgers’ athletics programs.

The gift will support a new endowed scholarship in each of the eight Olympic sports. Every year, one student from each of these sports will receive a Bender scholarship.

Before making this gift, the trust had given more than $1 million in support of student-athlete scholarships since 1981.

The growth of the funds in Bender’s estate was helped considerably by students at Rutgers Business School–Newark and New Brunswick. In 1994, the school established Little Investment Bankers of Rutgers, or LIBOR. Students in the organization provided investment research to the Bender Trust as they pursued both investment returns and valuable career experience. Since 1994, nearly 1,000 Rutgers students have participated in an annual Bender Trust stock analysis project.

Brian Brecht, head coach of the men’s lacrosse team, said he is thankful to the Bender Trust for making this gift to support Rutgers Athletics. “Their tremendous support of our program with this scholarship gift, combined with our top-ranked university and the Gary and Barbara Rodkin Academic Success Center, will no doubt have a huge impact on our student-athletes and our future successes.”

The Bells Must Ring is an R Fund initiative that aims to increase annual donor participation in support of athletic scholarships, the Big Ten Champions Fund, the Department of Leadership Development and Strategic Partnerships, and team-specific accounts.