Officials at Western Carolina University today (Thursday, Oct. 15) announced that the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in university history has netted a grand total of – drumroll, please – $51,826,915 in private giving for endowed scholarships, professorships and programmatic support.
The tally, revealed as part of an afternoon of events to celebrate the conclusion of The Campaign for Western Carolina, is more than $11 million above the $40 million goal announced when the campaign was publicly launched in February 2007.
“We have come further and progressed faster than we could have imagined when this campaign began,” WCU Chancellor John W. Bardo said. “Not only have we reached our goal, but we have far exceeded it. We had hoped to be able to raise $40 million by 2010, and here we are announcing more than $51 million on Oct. 15, 2009, a most historic day in the life of our university.”
In fact, leaders of the fundraising campaign reminded the crowd of students, faculty, staff and benefactors on hand for the announcement that the initial goal was not quite as lofty.
“Because it was to be our first campaign, we tested the viability of the vision and the possibility of a modest goal of raising $20 million,” said Phillip D. Walker, a senior vice president for BB&T who served as campaign chair. “Based on feedback from personal, confidential interviews by our outside consultant with key external stakeholders, we determined to move forward with the campaign and set $20 million as an internal preliminary target.”
In announcing the grand total, Bardo said that 59 percent of the dollars raised during the campaign came from WCU alumni, while 34 percent came from other friends, and 7 percent through sources such as corporations and foundations. “A total of 9,564 donors from 48 states have contributed to the campaign, including 608 Western Carolina faculty and staff members, and 5,661 alumni,” he said.
Thirty-four percent of the amount raised in the campaign will go toward endowed professorships, which allow the university to attract accomplished scholars in a variety of academic disciplines. Thirty percent of the dollars raised will fund merit-based scholarships that will help WCU recruit highly qualified students, while 26 percent will be directed to current use initiatives such as the Loyalty Fund and Catamount Club, and 10 percent to programmatic endowed funds for academics, athletics and other university needs.
“Now more than ever before, the university is attracting and competing for the very best students. Unfortunately, we have lost some of these students because other universities have offered them larger scholarships,” said Betty Farmer, professor of communication and co-chair of the faculty and staff campaign council.
“Fundraising is one of the last legs in Western Carolina’s ascent to the top of the college rankings. Everything else is in place. We have the faculty. We have the facilities. We have what it takes to create extraordinary opportunities,” Farmer said.
Josh Cotton, WCU’s Student Government Association president, thanked the many benefactors and campaign volunteers who were on hand for the day’s activities. “Through the countless generous donations and hard work by numerous individuals, the campaign has yielded scholarships that have been offered back to the student body,” Cotton said. “These scholarships assist students by enhancing their experience here on our beautiful campus. That is why I am truly proud of the success of this campaign.”
Christina Banner, a music education major, and Brandon Robinson, a current WCU graduate student who also earned his undergraduate degree in history from Western Carolina in 2005, shared their thoughts about the difference that private contributions make in the life of students.
“When I received my first scholarship as a freshman to help me attend Western Carolina, that signaled for me the confidence that WCU and the history department had in my abilities,” Robinson said. “That’s why, when the campaign began in 2007, I started my own lifelong tradition of giving to the history department, because I know what it means.”
Banner said that receiving scholarship assistance has meant that she has not had to take a part-time job to help pay expenses, leaving time to focus on studies and on extracurricular activities ranging from working backstage at theatrical productions to involvement in student leadership groups. “Receiving a scholarship has really freed me up to be able to take advantage of the college experience without having to worry about my finances,” she said.
It was concerns over students being able to afford college and the quality of their educational experience that led Wesley Elingburg, a 1978 graduate of WCU and retired chief financial officer with Laboratory Corp. of America, to make a major gift as part of the campaign.
“It pains me when I hear stories of students who want to go to school, but struggle financially to be able to do so,” said Elingburg, whose gifts led to the establishment of the Wesley Elingburg Professorship of Business Innovation, a position now held by Louis Buck, a former executive at one of the nation’s largest investor-owned energy companies.
“The campaign means a lot to the university, especially during these economic times when state funding is not what it used to be,” Buck said. “This support gives us the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of young students, and to help this university continue to improve.”
Despite the success of The Campaign for Western Carolina, university leaders say they will continue efforts to seek outside support. For more information, visit campaign.wcu.edu.
Maintained by the Office of Public Relations
Last Modified: Friday, Oct. 16, 2009