Students who give to the Senior Class Gift will be recognized with a special lapel pin.

Tommie Traditions: Senior Class Gift

A tradition since 1926

Continuing a legacy that began with the gift of the south campus Grotto in 1926, this year’s senior class has voted to give back to the University of St. Thomas by supporting a middle-income scholarship for future students.

Students who support the senior class gift will be recognized at commencement, where the Class of 2014 Scholarship will be presented to President Julie Sullivan by Student Legacy President Kirsten Larson and Vice President Matt Rippentrop.

“I think that a lot of people either experience this themselves, not meeting all of the financial aid requirements, or have friends who do,” Larson said.

The gift follows the fairly new tradition of a giving back in the form of an endowed scholarship, established in 2010.

“It resonates with a lot of students. I think everyone understands the importance of financial aid, especially today, and a scholarship makes such a difference to so many students,” said Jonna Schnettler, Development staff liaison to the Senior Class Gift Committee.

Past scholarships have included those created to support juniors and seniors involved in extracurricular or volunteer activities on campus (class of 2013), seniors experiencing unexpected financial hardship (class of 2012) and students interested in taking service trips through VISION (class of 2010).

The class of 2014 voted among three scholarship options last fall agreed upon by the Senior Class Gift Committee, a group of 63 current members, which is open to all seniors who want to help plan the gift.

Student Legacy is the parent organization of the committee, which is split into sub-committees of public relations, special events and fundraising, and welcomes participants from all corners of campus.

According to Schnettler, because there were 300 new endowed scholarships established within the Opening Doors capital campaign, this group of seniors was especially interested in identifying which scholarships were really needed at St. Thomas.

For a scholarship to be endowed at St. Thomas, it must reach $50,000. St. Thomas has established the class of 2014 scholarship for seniors to contribute this year and continue supporting in the future until it reaches the endowed level.

The Old Guard also has created a matching program that will donate $3,000 for every 10 percent participation of the senior class.

There is no hard deadline for the donation, but students who want to have their names included on the donor sheet at commencement need to give by May 13.

Students who give also will be recognized with a special lapel pin – a new feature of the senior class gift.

Senior Class Gift Committee member Erin Windschitl said the idea of recognition via pin parallels that of honors cords and will be more meaningful than perks seniors have received for giving in the past, such as tumblers or sunglasses.

The pin was designed by the Senior Class Gift Committee and the Student Legacy executive board.

For the first time in the history of the gift, the Senior Class Gift Committee will launch a campaign April 8 to encourage students to donate. Seniors can donate online. The committee also has created a video that will be shown in the Anderson Student Center atrium and Scooter’s on launch day during convocation hour. The video features senior students and was made by junior Mariann Kukielka.

Larson encourages seniors to come “because it’s something new we’re doing, kind of to excite students about the gift and the scholarship and raise awareness about it. A lot of people helped make the video so I’m really excited for all of campus to see it.”

The Senior Class Gift Committee also will be present at “It Takes More Than Tuition Day” on the plaza April 10, Grad Fest on April 23 and 24, and the senior picnic on April 29. Students will be able to make a donation via cash, credit card or check and pick up their lapel pin if they gave online.

St. Thomas also will partake in a challenge with Gustavus Adolphus College for senior class participation.

The committee’s goal for the senior class is to break the class of 2010’s record of 65 percent participation.

“Our overall goal is to have 100 percent participation from the senior class,” Schnettler said. “Our goal is participation and not a monetary amount, and that’s because … we want everyone to be involved and feel comfortable in making a gift of any size.”

According to Schnettler, Student Legacy’s purpose is “to educate students about the importance of philanthropy and giving back through time, talent and treasure, [and] talk to students on campus while they’re here about being leaders in the community and after they leave.”

Larson and Windschitl have been members of Student Legacy since their sophomore years and are both on the special events sub-committee of the Senior Class Gift Committee. Larson has been inspired by alumni like George Moskalik, who has given to the university every year since his graduation in 1939.

“It’s important to remember that sometimes the only reason students are able to go here is because of the generosity of the alumni who have come before us, and while tuition is expensive, we need to continue to give back to the students who are here and the students who are to come,” Larson said.

This year’s graduating class is the largest in the history of the university, which means it will be more difficult to achieve higher participation, but there is opportunity for more giving.

“[The class of 2014] has really stepped up and they’re leaders on campus. … This year has been remarkable in that it’s a lot of firsts for St. Thomas with this group. Hopefully it will make a difference and we’ll see great participation from the senior class,” Schnettler said.