President's Brown Bag - Harnessing the Power of Philanthropy and the Tommie Network

With a stated goal of raising $200 million for scholarship by 2025, St. Thomas’ ambitions for supporting its students is taking a major step forward.

The president’s brown bag on Wednesday addressed just that, with Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations Erik Thurman speaking on “Harnessing the Power of Philanthropy and the Tommie Network.”

View a recording of the brown bag here.

Looking to “stand on the shoulders of giants” from St. Thomas’ long history of philanthropy support, Thurman laid out the university’s goals in cultivating future support and increasing the engagement level of alumni with their alma mater.

St. Thomas’ funding – and philanthropy – priorities are rooted in the strategic plan, St. Thomas 2020. The five specific areas of funding priority are:

  • Scholarships and student achievement: endowed scholarships; Veterans Resource Center; and Center for Student Achievement;
  • Catholic identity and mission: Center for Common Good; chapel expansion and renovation; Dougherty Family College; and School of Education;
  • Science, technology, engineering and math: a new building; programs and faculty; and interdisciplinary opportunities;
  • Arts, innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship: a new building; programs and faculty; and interdisciplinary opportunities;
  • Health and wellness: new platforms for expanding health and wellness.

Scholarships and student achievement are priority one within those areas of focus, including a goal of doubling St. Thomas’ $150 million scholarship endowment by 2025. A step toward that started this year with the inaugural Week of Giving, which included Tommie Give Day (which raised more than $550,000 from 1,518 donors in its third year); Archbishop John Ireland Dinner; and the Priority One announcement event, highlighted by a $50 million gift from the GHR Foundation to endow the GHR Scholars program.

Tommie Give Day in particular fits in with St. Thomas’ desire to cultivate more alumni engagement: 54 percent of alumni agreed or strongly agreed St. Thomas does not need their financial support, which is a major departure from the reality of the university’s financial standing alongside other private schools.

In engaging more with alumni, St. Thomas will also focus beyond philanthropy in helping create a meaningful experience for its 105,000 alums. That plan includes expanding opportunities for alumni to act as ambassadors who encourage students to attend St. Thomas, and career and networking opportunities to engage with one another and current students.