Center for Innovation and Leadership Gift Announcement

Dear Students, Faculty, and Staff,

Last night, at the Changing Lives, Changing the World campaign celebration in Washington, D.C., I announced the exciting news that Caro Elise Luhrs ’56 has made a significant bequest to endow the Center for Innovation and Leadership. Once created, the endowment will secure the Center’s long-term financial sustainability, enabling students to contribute to the common good for years to come.

This generous gift, part of the Changing Lives, Changing the World campaign, is an expression of Caro’s longstanding interest in providing students with programs and opportunities that develop their capacity for leadership and entrepreneurship.

Today, the CIL does just that, often in partnership with faculty, alumni, the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility, Career Services, and others. With initiatives such as SwatTank, CIL@SF, and other innovative programs, the Center has become a vital addition to Swarthmore’s liberal arts offerings, teaching students transferable skills that will serve them across a wide range of disciplines and experiences.

Caro says, “Core skills developed in any one field can be easily transferred to other fields. And that instills a measure of confidence so that students seek out new opportunities, try new things, and aren’t afraid to make change for the better.”

After majoring in biology at Swarthmore, Caro became one of only five women in her class at Harvard Medical School. She pursued further training in internal medicine and became the first woman physician on the Georgetown Medical School faculty. Over the course of her career, she has held high level management, leadership, and innovative positions in medicine, business, and academia—at a time when, she says, “there were almost no women to lead the way.” She also became one of the first women in the United States to serve on the board of directors of a Fortune 500 company, The Pillsbury Company.

Caro is an innovator; because of her generosity, generations of Swarthmore students will have greater opportunities to innovate, to lead, to serve, and to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. Please join me in celebrating Caro’s transformative gift to Swarthmore.  


Valerie Smith