Opening Doors

Largest Gift to Higher Education in State History Launches St. Thomas' $500 Million Capital Campaign

A gift of $60 million – the largest single contribution to a college or university in Minnesota – has helped the University of St. Thomas launch a $500 million capital campaign.

Lee and Penny Anderson

Lee and Penny Anderson

St. Thomas announced the $60 million gift from Lee and Penny Anderson for a new student center and improvements to athletic and recreational facilities at a dinner and program held Wednesday evening to initiate the public phase of "Opening Doors," which is expected to be an eight-year campaign.

St. Thomas began the quiet phase of the campaign in 2004 and to date has raised $310 million in gifts and pledges. The amount – already the most raised in a capital campaign by a private college or university in Minnesota – includes 22 gifts of $1 million or more.

Lee Anderson is a member of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees and is owner and chairman of APi Group Inc., a St. Paul-based holding corporation of about 30 construction, manufacturing and fire-protection companies. Penny Anderson, a longtime community volunteer, serves as a trustee on the boards of the Naples Children's and Education Foundation and the Naples Winter Wine Festival, both in Florida.

"Penny and I have come to love the University of St. Thomas," Lee Anderson said. "Its mission, sense of spirituality, traditions and most of all its faculty, administration, fellow trustees and students have caused us to think about what we wanted to leave as our legacy to higher education in Minnesota. We especially have been influenced by the character of the students.

"When we were presented with the opportunity to help with the building of the new student center and athletic facilities, we knew immediately that was what we wanted to do. We believe this improvement in facilities will help the university to continue to attract bright, committed students for many generations. Our hope and belief is that it will help build and strengthen the sense of community among students on campus."

Also announced Wednesday were a host of anticipated academic programs and construction projects related to the campaign's three main themes: excellence, access and Catholic identity. The campaign's largest priority, $130 million, is for financial aid to help ensure access to a St. Thomas education for generations of students from all economic and cultural backgrounds.

"This campaign will advance St. Thomas to a whole new level of access and excellence," said Father Dennis Dease, president of St. Thomas, "and will result in an even more remarkable transformation than occurred during previous campaigns."

"Excellence is something that we all strive to achieve, and it's a natural aspiration of any university that hopes to make a distinctive mark on its students and on its community," said John Morrison, a St. Thomas trustee. " St. Thomas has made that mark, in my estimation, thanks to strong leadership and an admirable commitment to educate students who will go out and make us proud."

Morrison and his wife, Susan, are co-chairs of the campaign, along with Richard and Maureen Schulze. Morrison is chairman and chief executive officer of Central Bank Group and has been a trustee since 1996. Schulze, founder and chairman of Best Buy, joined the St. Thomas board in 1995.

Honorary co-chairs of Opening Doors are Archbishop Harry Flynn, Eugene Frey, David Koch, Harry McNeely, Gerald Rauenhorst and Guy Schoenecker. They are members of the St. Thomas Board of Trustees.

Opening Doors is St. Thomas' fifth campaign. In its Ever Press Forward campaign, which ended in 2001, more than 24,000 benefactors contributed $250 million, or more than twice the original goal. The Century II campaign, which ended in 1991, raised $83 million, or more than twice its $35 million goal. St. Thomas also raised $20 million in its Priorities for the '80s campaign in the late 1970s and $6 million in its Program for Great Teaching in the early 1960s.

The campaigns helped St. Thomas evolve from a relatively small men's college to a comprehensive, coeducational university; to expand from its original campus on St. Paul's Summit Avenue to campuses in Minneapolis, Owatonna and Rome; and to greatly expand the scope of its undergraduate majors and graduate programs.

With the exception of contributions earmarked for new construction, most of the Opening Doors funds will build the university's endowment for scholarships, endowed faculty positions and educational programs. Proceeds from the endowment, or invested funds, will support students and faculty for ongoing generations.

"As its name suggests, Opening Doors will create a pool of scholarship and financial-aid resources for students of diverse backgrounds," Dease said.   "This is the greatest goal of the campaign and speaks to our deepest roots. Archbishop John Ireland founded St. Thomas, in large measure, to serve Minnesota's growing immigrant community. The campaign also will allow us to recruit, retain and nurture the best teachers, and it will provide some exciting and much-needed enhancements to our campus facilities."

More than half of the Opening Door funds, or $252.5 million, will be directed toward academic priorities. Of that amount, $130 million will support several forms of financial aid, including need-based aid for students from low- and middle-income backgrounds, and merit-based aid for highly talented students. Something new, the Community Builder scholarship program, will help students who are most likely to use their higher education in service to the community. Finally, some of the funds will be earmarked for graduate students who often are juggling academic, work and family responsibilities.

"Scholarships not only open doors, but also keep them open," said Richard Schulze, whose $50 million gift to St. Thomas in 2000 was a state record at the time. "Students arrive confident but a bit unsure of themselves and their new environment, and mature into young adults ready to take on the world. We want to make sure those same opportunities are available to future generations of students."

St. Thomas will attempt to raise $185.5 million for building projects. The majority of those funds, $132 million, will be used on the St. Paul campus for the new Anderson Student Center, athletic and recreational facilities, and a parking ramp.

Student centers serve as the "living rooms" and main gathering places of modern universities; St. Thomas has outgrown the Murray-Herrick Campus Center, which opened 48 years ago on the St. Paul campus.   When Murray Hall opened in 1959, St. Thomas enrolled 1,771 students; St. Paul campus enrollment this fall is more than 7,300.

The new center will be built on the parking lot at the northeast corner of Summit and Cretin avenues, and on the site of O'Shaughnessy Hall, a 68-year-old athletic facility that will be torn down. The student center will include dining for students who live on campus, retail dining, a ballroom, a convenience store, a bowling alley and other recreational and athletic facilities, an art gallery and museum, a large formal lounge, meeting rooms, and offices for student clubs as well as Student Affairs and Campus Ministry.

St. Thomas will lose the 400 parking spaces at the lot on Summit and Cretin.   A new five-level, 700-car ramp will be built at the southwest corner of Cretin and Grand avenues. There also will be some parking under the new student center.

The university now has two swimming pools. One was built in 1939 as part of O'Shaughnessy Hall. The other, not designed for competitive swimming, is in McCarthy Gym on the "south" portion of the St. Thomas campus. St. Thomas plans to build a new aquatic center with a larger pool that will allow for varsity swimming and diving competitions. The site has not been determined.

A new basketball court will be added to the north end of McCarthy Gym. This new court will replace gym space that will be lost when O'Shaughnessy Hall is razed.

Construction of the parking ramp and the basketball court addition to McCarthy Gym will begin in May 2008. Construction of the Anderson Student Center, meanwhile, is planned to begin in May 2010.   The construction date for the aquatic center has not been set.

Finally, the campaign includes $52 million in "restricted" gifts and $10 million for gifts to the university's Annual Fund. Restricted gifts are designated by donors; an example would be a scholarship fund for students from a particular background.    The Annual Fund supports ongoing and special needs, and helps bridge the gap between income from tuition and the actual cost of educating students.

Academic priorities

If the Opening Doors campaign reaches its goals, these are the academic priorities that would be funded:

  • $130 million for financial-aid programs.
  • $57 million for endowed faculty positions. The university has 17 fully or partially funded endowed faculty positions; it hopes to increase that to 36. These positions allow St. Thomas to bring in established scholars with national and international reputations.
  • $25 million to support the School of Law, which opened in 2001.
  • $20 million to support the positions of four St. Thomas deans and provide strategic funds to help them develop new programs.
  • $5 million to support the Center for Ethical Business Cultures, part of the Opus College of Business.   The center has a range of programs for teaching business ethics in the classroom as well as in the community.
  • $5 million to support the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy. This institute, named for the former president of St. Thomas, is a joint effort between the university's Center for Catholic Studies and School of Law.
  • $5 million to support the William C. Norris Institute. Named for the longtime leader of Control Data Corp., the institute is part of the Opus College of Business and has a mission to encourage the development of socially beneficial technologies by supporting Minnesota entrepreneurs.
  • $3 million for core-curriculum enhancement. These funds will support a "first-year experience" program for freshmen; new teaching methods; senior-level capstone courses that tie the Catholic intellectual tradition to specific majors; and activities that link the themes of liberal arts learning, ethics and career preparation.
  • $1.5 million to support programs of the Center for Catholic Studies.
  • $1 million to support the Jay Phillips Center for Jewish-Christian Learning. Established at St. Thomas in 1985, the center sponsors many interfaith programs. St. John's University became a partner in the center in 1996.

Construction priorities

If the Opening Doors campaign reaches its goals, these are the construction priorities that will be funded:

  • $132 million for the Anderson Student Center, athletic and recreational facilities, and parking ramp, all on the St. Paul campus.
  • $20 million to help St. Thomas establish a new School of the Arts that would bring together existing programs in art history and music. If the university is able to secure gifts dedicated to this purpose from benefactors interested in the arts, the Music Department would relocate from St. Paul to a renovated MacPhail Building on the university's downtown Minneapolis campus. The building, on the same block as the School of Law, was purchased in 2001 and is the former home of the MacPhail School of Music. The Art History Department, which offers bachelor's and master's programs, will remain in St. Paul. It will manage art exhibits planned for the Anderson Student Center, which also will be home to the American Museum of Asmat Art that was donated to the university last summer.
  • $15 million to renovate the Murray-Herrick Campus Center after the Anderson Student Center opens. For the first time, St. Thomas would be able to bring together in one location a host of administrative offices that serve students. Part of the building would be renovated for classrooms, faculty offices and instructional areas equipped with new technology.
  • $5 million to support the university's Bernardi Campus, located on the west bank of the Tiber River in Rome and short walk from Vatican City. St. Thomas acquired the facility in 1999 and it is used by students in three of the university's study-abroad programs.
  • $5 million to support the Information Commons, which is a blend of digital and traditional library resources on the Minneapolis and St. Paul campuses. Funds would be used for digital publication subscriptions and to renovate St. Thomas' libraries and wireless computer networks.
  • $3.5 million to expand Sitzmann Hall, home of the Center for Catholic Studies that is located at Summit and Cleveland avenues. The addition will provide additional office, meeting and instructional space.
  • $2.5 million to expand the Daniel C. Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna. The 10,000-square-foot addition would include a new conference room, expanded dining facilities and an ecumenical chapel.
  • $1.5 million to upgrade the auditorium in O'Shaughnessy Educational Center, St. Thomas' largest presentation space.
  • $1 million to renovate the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas. In addition to improvements to the sound system and the addition of air conditioning, plans include a new movable altar, a new sanctuary floor and a 12-foot-high, ceiling-hung crucifix in the sanctuary.