Campaigns ensure transformations

St. Thomas envisions new levels of access, excellence

On the evening of Sept. 21, 2001, more than 400 alumni and benefactors of St. Thomas gathered in Coughlan Field House to celebrate the conclusion of Ever Press Forward, the largest fund-raising campaign of any private college or university in Minnesota history.

After a reception, dinner, speeches and the presentation of awards and honorary degrees, the big moment came. Eugene Frey, a member of the Board of Trustees and campaign co-chair along with his wife, Mary, announced the Ever Press Forward total. Through a smoke-like fog, four-foot numbers emerged behind the Freys: $260,000,000. The crowd gasped and cheered.

Frey went on to say that the amount raised from April 1993 to September 2001 actually totaled $260,143,435. More cheers came as he explained that the campaign had more than doubled the $120 million goal that he had announced five years and one day earlier, also at a dinner in the field house.

As it turned out, St. Thomas raised $250,429,408, or $9.7 million less than the total announced at the 2001 event. The revised total is based on updated pledge fulfillment expectations.

Nearly a decade after the launch of Ever Press Forward and five years since the celebration, several questions remain, as they always do with comprehensive fund-raising campaigns at colleges and universities. Where is that $250 million? Have all the pledges been paid? How much of the money has been spent? How much have we saved?

Good questions, indeed, and there are answers. The bottom line is that 86 percent of the money has been received, and the other 14 percent will come in over the next several years or, in the case of planned (estate) gifts, longer. When all the pledges have been fulfilled, $133.8 million will have been added to endowment, $66 million spent for buildings and capital projects and $50.6 million spent for operations, including annual scholarships.

The $250 million achievement also more than doubled the combined total of three previous campaigns. The Century II campaign, which ended in 1991, raised $83.1 million. St. Thomas raised $20.1 million in its Priorities for the ’80s campaign in the late 1970s and $6.3 million in its Program for Great Teaching campaign in the 1960s.

“Each campaign changes a university, and not just during the campaign,” said Quentin Hietpas, senior vice president for external affairs emeritus and director of the Century II and Ever Press Forward campaigns. “We built several buildings during Ever Press Forward, and they will serve us for a century. We endowed 12 professorships, and they will grow in value and be around forever.

“An increasing number of people become knowledgeable about a university during a campaign, and then they get involved – first as volunteers and then, we hope, as benefactors. A chain reaction occurs and even more people get involved. That’s why a campaign is so invigorating.”

The $250 million raised in Ever Press Forward came from 24,387 benefactors – $202 million from 22,724 individuals, including $15.3 million in planned gifts, and $48 million from 942 corporations, 402 foundations and 319 other organizations. The largest single gift was $50 million from Richard Schulze, founder and chairman of Best Buy, and his late wife, Sandra. A donor who asked to remain anonymous gave $30 million. Those two gifts accounted for 40 percent of all individual gifts, demonstrating the impact of large gifts and their importance in a campaign’s success.

“Equally important are the thousands of smaller gifts that are made by alumni and friends,” said Steve Hoeppner, executive director of the Development Office. “They add up quickly and enable us to address the ongoing financial-aid needs of students, among many other university priorities. We are fortunate and grateful that the tradition of supporting St. Thomas students continues to be passed from one generation to the next.”

Schulze announced his gift in February 2000 and paid it over nearly six years, with the funds split evenly between the College of Business’ entrepreneurship programs and the School of Law. St. Thomas, in close consultation with Schulze, used $21 million to build Schulze Hall and $4 million to support programs in the new Schulze School of Entrepreneurship. The law school funds helped construct the new building and support endowed chairs and scholarships.

The life of Ever Press Forward will turn out to be longer than the eight-year pledge period. While most of the $48 million in corporate and foundation gifts were paid within two years of their pledge dates, the $202 million in pledges from individuals will take 15 or more years to be paid.

“Most pledges are paid off within five years, especially gifts of six figures or less,” said Tamara Tesch, compliance manager in the Development Office. “Gifts of more than $1 million can take longer. Some donors intend to pay off pledges within a certain time frame, but events happen, such as a downturn in the stock market, that might force them to restructure their pledges or even skip a year, with the idea of making it up later.”

Tesch said St. Thomas expects virtually all of the $250 million in Ever Press Forward pledges to be paid. After June 30, the end of the 2005-06 fiscal year, she projects there will be $35 million in outstanding pledges, or 14 percent of the total.

Campaigns also have an unpredictable way of generating dollars for projects that aren’t a priority when a goal is announced. Halfway through Century II, for example, St. Thomas decided to open a Minneapolis campus and added a $25 million priority to what had started as a $35 million campaign. The 1999 decision to open a law school came during the Ever Press Forward campaign, and $55 million was raised in 28 months.

“New opportunities come along during a campaign,” Hietpas said. “That’s what happened with both the Minneapolis campus and the law school. We found that loyal major benefactors were willing to support those projects, on top of earlier commitments, and we also were able to involve new donors. Again, it’s part of that chain reaction.”

When a campaign ends, fund raising continues for the Annual Fund and other scholarships, and it is only a matter of time before another campaign begins. That is a given in higher education today; 45 schools have active campaigns seeking to raise $38.2 billion, and 22 have campaign goals of $1 billion or higher. If a school isn’t in an active campaign, it likely is planning one or is in a “silent” phase, in which priorities are determined and major benefactors are asked to make commitments.

St. Thomas is assessing potential priorities for its next campaign as part of a strategic planning process, said Dr. Mark Dienhart, executive vice president and chief administrative officer. The highest priority will be endowed undergraduate scholarships, an area in which Ever Press Forward missed its goal. Other priorities will be endowed fellowships for graduate students, endowed chairs and several building projects, including a new campus center and a new athletics and recreational center with a swimming pool.

“The next campaign will advance St. Thomas to a whole new level of access and excellence,” said Father Dennis Dease, president, “and will result in an even more remarkable transformation than occurred during previous campaigns. Excellence is about recruiting, retaining and nurturing the best teachers and providing the best facilities, and access calls for us to enroll talented students of diverse backgrounds and academic interests.

“We will need additional resources to accomplish those goals and to carry out our mission. I have no doubt that we will be successful in our next campaign, thanks to the generosity of our donors, and that we will emerge from that effort a stronger and more vital university.”

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