Gifts from parents improve the Centre experience
April 8, 2010 By Leigh Ivey
given to the College. Currently, money contributed to the Parent
Fund is being used to purchase microscopes for the new labs in
Centre parents also contributed the funds for the game room in
the Campus Center, which is home to a pool table, ping-pong
table, flat-screen televisions, Wii game systems and more.
This year, Centre College alumni once again proved that they are among the nation’s leaders in giving to their alma mater. Last month, they met the “One Million Reasons to Give” challenge, contributing $250,000 to the Centre Fund—money that led to an anonymous donor giving $750,000 to the College.
Centre alums are not the only friends of the College giving at a high percentage this year. As of the beginning of April, 53 percent of all Centre parents have given to the College during this fiscal year.
“At this time in 2009, we had 46 percent of Centre parents participating,” says Mary Beth Neiser, director of leadership gifts and the Parent Fund. “In 2008, it was 49 percent. I think all those numbers are pretty incredible coming from parents.”
Neiser believes that these remarkable percentages are “a sign that Centre is doing something right. Alumni giving is wonderful and very meaningful, and we certainly want our alumni to give back and be pleased with their past experiences as Centre students. Parent giving is a unique and different indicator—it lets us know that what Centre is doing right now meets with their approval.”
Mona Wyatt, director of parent programs and donor relations, says that “Centre parents enjoy their four-year association with the College almost as much as their students do. As an important part of the Centre family, they, too, are able to develop friendships and have fun experiences with other parents at sporting events, concerts, art shows, academic presentations and Norton Center events. Many of them host students in their homes during holidays or when a Centre team is on the road. And they seem just as sad to be leaving at commencement as their student is.”
The continual increase in parent giving is due in part to new fundraising efforts by the alumni office.
“I think more parents are giving now because we’ve made an effort to include them,” Neiser says. “We’ve given them the opportunity to play a role in the life of the College and have an impact on their students, and parents are excited to do that. We’ve also worked on selecting projects for the Parent Fund that might be especially meaningful to parents.”
For these projects, the Parent Committee (a group of parent volunteers) leads the way, pledging their support as well as talking to other parents about the importance of the Parent Fund.
Over the years, this fund has supported countless projects and improvements on campus. Most recently, the Parent Fund has been providing money for microscopes to be used in Young Hall’s new science labs.
“With the increased lab space, Centre really needed to have more microscopes available, and the Parent Fund is helping with that,” Neiser says. “More than 50 percent of all Centre students take a biology class, so this project will touch the lives of many students.”
In addition, the Parent Fund is helping to provide the resources needed to bring the author of the first-year required-reading book to campus.
In this Centre tradition, each first-year student reads the same book—chosen by the faculty—then discusses the work in small groups led by faculty advisors during orientation. Later in the year, the author of the book often visits campus to meet with the first-year students.
“We’re hoping to raise enough money to bring the author to campus for a discussion with the entire community so that this experience can go beyond orientation and beyond the first-year class,” Neiser says.
Past gifts provided by the Parent Fund include a reading and lounge area in the library (along with the library’s video screening room), the game room inside the Campus Center and a new scholarship that was part of the last campaign.
“We try to select projects that will touch a large percentage of the student body,” Neiser says, “and that will be completed within a year or two so that current students can benefit from them.”
During the next fiscal year, the Parent Fund will continue to raise money for the first-year book author visits and will take on a new renovation project in the library, expanding the reading area and providing new furnishings.
And Centre parents do more than provide funding for such projects. “We couldn’t ask for a greater group of supporters than our current and former parents,” Wyatt says. “They end up being huge advocates for Centre, encouraging high school students they know to check out the College, hiring Centre students for jobs and internships and helping to promote the College in their community. Their loyalty is impressive.”
Although Centre’s alumni office has met their parent participation goal of 50 percent, they still hope to raise nearly $15,000 to meet the dollar goal. “I hope that we’ll be able to raise the $172,000 we established as our goal at the beginning of the year,” Neiser says. “The next few months should be exciting.”