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Russell Sage College receives $4 million donation



Russell Sage College has received a $4 million donation from entrepreneur and alum Donna Robinson Esteves, the college announced Thursday.

The money will go toward new online graduate degree programs as well as the renovation of the French House building on its Troy campus into a women-only residence hall.

“We couldn’t be more grateful for her support and how she inspires our students to consider how they can live the college’s motto of ‘To be. To know. To do.’ when they become alumni,” said Christopher Ames, president of the college, in a statement.

Esteves has donated more than $20 million to Russell Sage College during her life — the most of any donor in the college’s history.

Esteves graduated from Sage in 1970 with an English degree and became a teacher in Louisiana. She later became one of the nation’s top Mary Kay Cosmetics salespeople. After a move to New Jersey, she spotted an opportunity in the field of energy conservation and founded the Free Lighting Corp., which she grew into a large contracting firm. Esteves sold the company in 2001.

“When Chris Ames and I met to discuss Russell Sage, I asked him, ‘What do you need?’,” Esteves said in a statement. “This gift is the culmination of the college’s greatest needs right now, and it directly serves current students. I could not be happier! Nothing in my life brings me more joy than giving back. The deep feeling of gratitude that I have for Russell Sage College and all it has given me has made this gift, and all of the gifts, a joy. They are gifts from my heart.”

Russell Sage College has enrollment of 2,159 — about half of those students are in graduate programs. It had revenue of $74.4 million for the fiscal year ending in June 2022, according its Form 990 filing.

The college’s Troy campus covers 15 acres on the south side of the city’s downtown. It also has an 18-acre campus in Albany along New Scotland Avenue.

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