Released: Aug. 16, 1999
Centre College regains national title for alumni giving
DANVILLE, KY- Centre College has returned to the national spotlight with a number-one ranking in the nation for alumni giving. A recent survey showed that Centre led the nation with a 65.2 percent alumni giving rate for the 1998-99 fiscal year. Amherst and Princeton followed Centre with 64.7 percent and 61.0 percent, respectively.
Centre's number-one ranking came in a year when the college witnessed an increase of 73 precent in giving by young alumni, bucking a national trend toward decreased charitable giving by the under-30 generation. The increase at Centre was concentrated among alumni who graduated or attended the college in the past decade.
Centre previously held the number-one spot in alumni giving for 12 years, 1983-95, then stayed at the number-two spot behind Amherst 1995-98, according to Jason Scott Embry, Centre's associate director of development for annual giving. Those 12 consecutive years at the number-one spot set a record that remains unmatched.
During the 1998-99 fiscal year, the college received donations from 5,474 alumni out of a total 8,395 alumni. The dollar value of alumni gifts this year was more than $4.5 million. A substantial part of the total was applied toward student scholarships.
Centre President John A. Roush says of Centre's number-one ranking: "The high rate of giving by Centre alumni indicates that our former students are pleased with the quality of education they received. We are deeply grateful for their loyalty and generosity."
Centre alumnus John H. Newman, a New York attorney who chairs Centre's trustee committee on development, commented: "Those of us who attended Centre are in a unique position to understand how exceptional a college it is. I am proud that so many of my fellow alumni also understand the need to support the college for the benefit of current and future students."
After Centre enjoyed its run of 12 years at the number-one spot (and set an all-time national record with a 75.4 percent rate in 1987-88), securing a 13th year presented a few challenges, says Richard W. Trollinger, vice president for college relations. Centre's achievements provoked strong competition from Ivy League institutions that had dominated the rankings in the 1970s. "Amherst, in particular, was determined to claim the top spot," says Trollinger. "We had a good time looking at their fund drive appeals that regularly arrived on the desk of Centre's academic vice president, John Ward, who is an Amherst graduate."
Still, says Trollinger, there was a more pragmatic -- even intentional -- reason for Centre's move to the number-two spot for a few years. "Centre was actively engaged in a major capital funds campaign during the years we ranked second," Trollinger says. "Centre alumni are incredibly loyal, but even they need a gentle nudge now and then to remind them of the annual fund. During the campaign's active phase, our alumni and development offices put less focus on annual fund reminders and more emphasis on major gifts to endow scholarships and professorships."
The emphasis paid off in its own way. The Front and Centre Campaign exceeded its goal, raising $76 million against a $60 million goal. The college added 29 new endowed scholarship funds and 15 new endowed faculty chairs.
As the campaign closed, Centre evaluated its fund raising and alumni relations programs, and realized the need for a special emphasis on young alumni. The college appointed a coordinator of young alumni giving, Jessica Coleman, a 1997 Centre graduate, and moved to create a Young Alumni Advisory Committee, more web site services for alumni and a senior class gift program.
Whether the gifts come from young or old alumni, President Roush says that Centre's overall alumni giving record has had an impact on the college far beyond the dollars raised. "The average rate of alumni giving among American colleges is close to 23 percent," says Roush, "and when a college can achieve 65.2 percent, there is a wonderful ripple effect. Foundations consider it a statement about educational quality, so the college becomes a stronger candidate for grants. The college guidebooks, including "America's Best Colleges" by U.S. News & World Report, look at alumni giving as one measure of educational satisfaction."
Centre has been ranked by U.S. News as one of the 50 best liberal arts colleges in the nation, and Kiplinger's Personal Finance Magazine recently named Centre as a "top value" among private colleges in the United States.
Founded in 1819, Centre has an enrollment of around 1,050 students. The college has produced 11 Fulbright Scholars in the last nine years and is one of the smallest colleges in the nation with a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
** 1998-99 National Leaders in Alumni Participation in Annual Giving
1. Centre College (Ky.) 65.2%
2. Amherst College (Mass.) 64.7%
3. Princeton University (N.J.) 61.0%
4. Williams College (Mass.) 58.6%
5. Hamilton College (N.Y.) 55.9%
6. Swarthmore College (Pa.) 53.3%
7. Carleton College (Minn.) 52.0%
8. Randolph-Macon Woman's College (Va.) 48.0%
9. Washington & Lee University (Va.) 46.4%
10. Grinnell College (Iowa) 44.7%
** Based on information provided by each individual institution in a telephone survey conducted by Centre College. [Note: This information was subsequently confirmed by data posted on-line by the U.S. News & World-Report in conjunction with its annual guide to best American colleges. Although the U.S. News site reports percentages that are different from those listed above (their figures are actually higher due to a different formula), Centre remains in the top spot.]
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