College Celebrates $502 Million Campaign
Issue   |   Wed, 09/25/2013 - 01:11
Olivia Tarantino ’15 Photographer
Members of the community gathered in the freshman quad to celebrate the College’s successful campaign.

This past weekend, speakers filled lecture halls and festive tents adorned the first-year quad as Amherst College celebrated the completion of its $502 million fundraising campaign.

The campaign, entitled “Lives of Consequence,” engaged 86 percent of Amherst alumni and 54 percent of parents through 1,463 events as well as opportunities to mentor and network with students. Ultimately, the College surpassed its $425 million fundraising goal. However, initial expectations for donations were more modest.

“I was surprised at the size of the total gifts,” said Brian Conway ’80, one of three alumni who co-chaired the campaign. “Early on, a consultant estimated we could raise a number closer to $300 million.”

The fundraising effort, which launched in 2008, was marred by initial fears that the economic downturn would prove too great an obstacle to overcome.

“We debated whether to launch the public phase of the campaign on Oct. 25, 2008, just as the worst recession since the Depression of 1929 was starting,” Conway said.

Ultimately, the campaign team chose to press on despite the recession. Conway joined fellow trustees Hope Pascucci ’90 and Jide Zeitlin ’85 as the alumni co-chairs of the campaign, while Chief Advancement Officer Megan Morey was the administrator who led the effort at Amherst.

Many other alumni took leading roles in the campaign. The co-chairs, explained Morey, “oversaw a steering committee which included five regional committees, including an international committee.”

According to Morey, the money raised has been allotted to improve many aspects of life at Amherst.
“Amherst has increased financial aid, thereby ensuring the continued recruitment and enrollment of the most promising students from around the world,” Morey said, adding that $70.4 million of the money raised will be used for scholarship funds.

The campaign also hopes to increase student opportunities with its creation of the Center for Community Engagement, which received $16.6 million of campaign funds. Other funds raised include $103 million for College facilities, as well as $27.4 million for five endowed professorships, student research, language study and programming at the Mead Art Museum. Additionally, Morey noted that the campaign received $238 million in unrestricted giving to the endowment and Annual Fund. Ultimately, the $502 million in total donations “exceeded the first goals set to fund the College’s priorities,” Conway said, then even surpassed “the revised informal goal of $500 million.”

Members of the College community gathered together on Friday and Saturday to celebrate this successful effort, participating in a weekend that included food, music and entertainment, as well as lectures and presentations by Amherst professors and alumni.

Highlights of the weekend included a keynote address by Trustee Howard Gardner, the John H. and Elisabeth A. Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, who gave a talk entitled “Education in the Liberal Arts and Sciences: Glancing Backward, Imagining Forward.”

The celebration also brought a range of prominent alumni to campus, including Bert Rein ’61 and Paul Smith ’76, two attorneys who brought their Supreme Court experience to a point-counterpoint on affirmative action held in Johnson Chapel. The weekend also included the unveiling of a portrait of poet Richard Wilbur ’42.

While some of the weekend’s events were sparsely attended by students, food proved to be a major draw for most of the student body, who flocked to Valentine Quad on Saturday afternoon to eat a lunch containing foods from local producers. In the evening, members of the community gathered in the first-year quad for music, games and international cuisine from a variety of different continents.

Several students expressed appreciation for the diverse food offerings.

“The food was good and I loved the balloons,” said Scarlet Im ’17. “I am glad that Amherst had these events.”

Evelyn Ting ’17, another student attendee, agreed, noting that the event was so popular that, “The lines were too long for everyone to taste all the food they wanted.”

And while the Lives of Consequence campaign officially ended on Saturday, both Morey and Conway expressed their hope that the projects implemented by the campaign will have long-lasting effects, especially when it comes to programs that aim to strengthen ties between alumni, faculty and students.

“The College started an effort to connect the Amherst alumni body to the College through Amherst Connects,” Conway said. “The idea is the collective talents of the alumni body can enhance the experience for students in myriad ways, through internships, research opportunities, career counseling, speaker series, etc.”

Explaining his vision for the future, Conway added, “One day we hope prospective students will apply to Amherst in part to become part of a vibrant, engaged Amherst alumni community, and alums will advance Amherst’s mission through their active engagement.”