At an event this past fall on campus, James F. ’56 and Cynthia L. Caird were presented with dual President’s Medals by President Mark D. Gearan, in recognition of their contributions to the Colleges and their unwavering support of education.
“The core of Hobart and William Smith’s mission is to foster an appreciation for lifelong learning and discovery,” said Gearan. “It is fitting, then, that we salute individuals whose personal and professional lives embody the values we aspire for our students as we prepare them for leadership.”
Jim and Cindy share a devotion to higher education and are generous supporters of both Albany Academy, Mr. Caird’s secondary school, and HWS, where they have provided the most up-to-date resources, facilities and opportunities for students.
“Our standard of living is and will always be impacted directly by the level of higher education of the people in our communities,” explained Cindy, whose 19 year career in the airline industry gives her a unique perspective on the power of globally educated students.
Their most recent gift to Hobart and William Smith established the James F. ’56 and Cynthia L. Caird Endowed Scholarship Fund to support students from Albany, N.Y., with preference given to Albany Academy graduates.
The scholarship’s first recipient, Tomas Carvalho e Silva ’10, has benefited from the Cairds’ generosity throughout his academic career, first as a student at Albany Academy and now, flourishing at Hobart College.
“I am so grateful for Jim and Cindy’s generosity,” said Carvalho e Silva. “Receiving the scholarship completely blew me away. I really wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for the Cairds.”
Born in Troy, N.Y., James Caird graduated from Albany Academy before attending Hobart, where his academic record looked, in his own words, more like a prison record than a college transcript. “Each day at Hobart and William Smith became more and more pleasurable. Sometimes too pleasurable, I’m sure,” he joked.
But Jim believed, and still believes, in playing as hard as he works, and the same sense of humor that may have influenced his academic transcript led Jim to come up with several ideas for specialized marketing that helped him rocket to success as the founder of Auto Insurance Specialists, which became the world’s largest privately owned personal lines insurance agency.
“One of my idols Jack Lemmon once said, ‘when you wake up in the morning and have no reason to lift your head up off the pillow, your life is over,’” said Jim. “I never want that to happen to me.”
To that end, Jim and Cindy have remained active, energetic and full of life, even in retirement. The pair travels frequently, and Jim keeps his mind nimble investing in the stock market and following what he calls the ‘calculus’ of baseball. They also remain actively involved in their philanthropic interests.
In 1999, the couple gave a no-stringsattached $5 million gift to Albany Academy. It was, at the time, the largest gift to any private secondary school in New York State.
In 2007, the Cairds made another leadership gift, a donation of $3.7 million to Hobart and William Smith’s Campaign for the Colleges. Their gift put the initiative over the $100 million mark. In tribute to their generosity, the Colleges named Caird Hall in their honor.
“I’m not a William Smith alumna but I have really accepted Hobart and William Smith as my own,” said Cindy. “For me, being part of the HWS community has been an exceptional experience.”
“All colleges are not like Hobart and William Smith,” said Jim. “Becoming reengaged with the Colleges and meeting students like Tomas has been like the best parts of having children all over again. But, you know, you don’t have to change any diapers.”