The Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades will receive two donations totalling $45 million, students and faculty learned at a convocation held at the Media campus' chapel this afternoon.

The donors are two local philanthropic couples with strong ties to area businesses - Henry M. and Lee Rowan and H. FitzGerald "Gerry" and Marguerite Lenfest. The donation will go directly to the school's endowment fund.

Williamson, with 250 students, provides a free post-secondary education in carpentry, masonry, power plant technology, machine tool technology, paintings and coating technology, as well as horticulture and turf management.

"This is a transformational gift," said the school's president, Paul Reid. Reid said investment income from the school's endowment, which will reach $100 million at the end of the fundraising campaign, will pay for two-thirds of the $6.5 million annual operating costs of the school.

The rest of the money is raised annually from donors.

The students attend Williamson for three years, living on campus. Room and board are also covered by the school. Most receive an associate's degree.

Located on 220 acres, Williamson was founded in 1888 by Isaiah Vansant Williamson, a Philadelphia merchant and philanthropist.

Contact staff writer Jane M. Von Bergen at 215-854-2769 or