Opening Doors

We Made it! Opening Doors Capital Campaign Surpasses $500 Million Goal

The completion of the most successful fundraising campaign of any private institution of higher education in Minnesota and its four neighboring states was announced Wednesday by the University of St. Thomas.

Gifts and pledges totaling $515,104,773 have been generated in the university’s “Opening Doors” capital campaign, Father Dennis Dease, president, told a dinner audience in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex.

“The campaign transformed our campus with stunning new facilities. But most significant was our single-largest goal, raising $142 million for financial aid that will open the doors to a St. Thomas education for future generations of students from all economic and cultural backgrounds,” Dease said.

The university’s Board of Trustees approved a $500 million goal and the campaign was announced publicly in October 2007, just months before the onset of the recession. Despite challenging economic conditions, St. Thomas raised more in its Opening Doors campaign than the combined total of all previous fund drives.

“The 43,539 alumni and friends who made contributions were key to our success,” Dease said. “That is nearly twice as many donors as our previous campaign and a demonstration of the depth of feeling for St. Thomas on the part of a tremendous number of people. It was truly a community effort.”

The campaign benefited from three gifts of more than $50 million each, two of them made anonymously, and from two large challenge grants. An anonymous donor made one challenge grant in 2010 for $25 million, and St. Thomas trustees made a second challenge grant for $20 million earlier this year. When matched, the challenge grants collectively added $90 million to the campaign and pushed the total beyond the $500 million goal.

Anderson Gift Launches Campaign

Opening Doors was launched with news of a $60 million gift from St. Thomas trustee Lee Anderson and his wife, Penny. The gift helped underwrite three major construction projects on the St. Paul campus: the 2012 Anderson Student Center, the 2010 Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex and the 2009 Anderson Parking Facility.

The campaign was co-chaired by two longtime St. Thomas trustees and their wives, John and Susan Morrison and Richard and Maureen Schulze.

“Our trustees were nothing short of heroic,” Dease said. “They knew from the start that raising $500 million was going to be a challenge, but they never wavered – not even when the bottom dropped out of the economy.”

The recession “made the road more challenging, but the reaching of our goal all the more rewarding,” said co-chair Morrison, a trustee since 1996. “While the big gifts were significant to our success, equally so were the tens of thousands of our alumni and friends who contributed what they could. The spirit, breadth and depth of this campaign were unprecedented. Maybe it had something to do with the recession, but Sue and I heard over and over from alumni who had received financial aid as students. They wanted to help future generations the way that they had been helped.”

Morrison said the generosity of alumni reminds him of a Greek proverb that is etched in glass and mounted in the new student center: “A society grows great when people plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit.”

“We are thankful to have so many generous and supportive trustees who have done so much to ensure a successful campaign with support for so many future students,” said co-chair Schulze, a trustee since 1995. “Scholarships not only open doors, but also keep them open. I have seen it happen time and time again: Students arrive confident but a bit unsure of themselves and their new environment, and mature into young adults ready to take on the world. Maureen and I wanted to make sure those same opportunities remain available to future generations of students.”

“Creating that pool of scholarship and financial-aid resources for students of diverse backgrounds speaks to our deepest roots,” Dease said. “Archbishop Ireland founded St. Thomas, in large measure, to serve Minnesota’s growing immigrant community.”

Thanks Also to Students, Staff and Faculty

Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief operating officer of St. Thomas and director of the campaign, thanked students, faculty and staff for their contributions.

“It’s inspiring that more than 3,300 students contributed to the campaign, and we know they don’t have money to spare,” Dienhart said. “Faculty and staff also pitched in and did so at record levels. Their participation rate jumped from 15 percent to 58 percent during the course of the campaign. That’s impressive.”

Dienhart also praised St. Thomas employees, including staff in Development, Alumni and Constituent Relations, University Relations, and Web and Media Services, for their effectiveness in raising funds, holding events and communicating about the campaign.

“Many, many people have been engaged in this effort for the better part of a decade,” he said, “and their good work has created a lasting impact on this institution.”

Campaign Priorities

Opening Doors’ priorities addressed the campaign’s three themes: access, excellence and Catholic identity. St. Thomas raised nearly $254 million for financial aid and academic programs and another $176 million for construction and renovations. It also raised $52 million in other restricted gifts and $32 million for the Annual Fund.

Funds raised for construction projects include:

  • $58.7 million for the Anderson Student Center.
  • $52.9 million for the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Complex.
  • $15 million for the Anderson Parking Facility.
  • $4.6 million to expand Sitzmann Hall, home of the Center for Catholic Studies.
  • $2.6 million to expand the Gainey Conference Center in Owatonna.
  • $1.1 million to renovate the Chapel of St. Thomas Aquinas.

Funds raised for financial aid and academic programs include:

  • $142.5 million for financial aid ($106.5 million for undergraduates and $36 million for graduate students).
  • $51.8 million for 19 endowed chairs and professorships.
  • $35.1 million for deanships and strategic funds.
  • $8.6 million for the School of Law.
  • $5 million for the Norris Institute.
  • $3.9 million for the Center for Ethical Business Cultures.
  • $3.4 million for the Center for Catholic Studies.
  • $2.5 million for the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law and Public Policy.
  • $1 million for the Jay Phillips Center for Interfaith Learning.

Benefits Will Last as Long as St. Thomas Exists

The most visible signs of Opening Doors are the three new Anderson structures. Along with their construction came an enlarged lower quadrangle with a fountain and new plaza that links the quadrangle to the entrance of O’Shaughnessy Stadium.

The three facilities had been on St. Thomas’ wish list for years. The student and athletic centers replaced outdated facilities designed for a much smaller student population. The parking structure has eased parking problems and was essential because the new student center was built on what had been a 400-space surface lot.

“The beauty of our campus and quality of its facilities have become a St. Thomas hallmark,” said Steve Hoeppner, executive director of development. “But from the start, this campaign was not about the appearance of our buildings … but what goes on inside them. We’ve never before had anything like our new student and athletic centers. The way they’ve enhanced the undergraduate student experience here has exceeded our highest expectations.”

While those facilities will serve students for many generations, so will funds raised for scholarships and professorships. Proceeds from the invested funds will provide financial aid for as long as the university exists. Opening Doors, for example, created 309 newly endowed scholarships, each valued at $50,000 or higher. The number of endowed chairs and professorships, meanwhile, will increase from 17 to 36.

The university honored the four Opening Doors co-chairs at Wednesday’s dinner. John Morrison and Richard Schulze received the Archbishop John Ireland Award for contributions to higher education. Susan Morrison and Maureen Schulze received honorary doctor of humane letters degrees.

St. Thomas’ four previous campaigns raised a combined $359.5 million. They were: “Ever Press Forward,” completed in 2001, $250 million; “Century II,” completed in 1991, $83.1 million; “Priorities for the ’80s,” completed in 1982, $20.1 million; and “Program for Great Teaching,” completed in 1965, $6.3 million.

The St. Thomas community is invited to celebrate the conclusion of Opening Doors from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, in the Anderson Athletic and Recreation Center field house. Lunch will be provided, and transportation from Minneapolis will be available.