As I travel the country meeting with alumni and friends of Bethany, providing updates on the progress of the College and the many noteworthy accomplishments of our faculty, staff and students, I am reminded of the steadfast loyalty of Bethanians of all generations. Many have heard me say that in 22 years as a college president at three very different institutions, never have I seen a college or university in which graduates openly express their love for their alma mater to the extent that Bethany alumni do. Whether the accolades come from corporate chief executive officers, church leaders or educators, I have heard countless stories of the influential—indeed, transformational—powers of this historic place and the roles Bethany has played in shaping both the personal and professional philosophy and direction of its graduates.
The consistent and fervent support of Bethanians reflects a true and inspiring spirit of giving that often is also expressed through generous financial contributions.
Vice President for Institutional Advancement Sven de Jong recently provided me with an update of progress on our capital campaign, “Transformation Now: The Campaign for Bethany College.” To date, he noted, total gifts and pledges have exceeded $44 million. Over the past four years, most of these gifts have come from alumni of the College who recognize that what we charge in tuition and fees represents just a fraction of what it costs to operate our 1,300-acre campus, to provide a world-class education and to remain competitive as a nationally ranked institution.
Although our campaign continues, we have already funded many key components of our 10-year, $68 million campus master plan. They include:
- Major renovations to buildings (Cochran Hall, Hurl Center for Education, Christman Manor, Cummins Community Center, Benedum Commons, and Bethany House);
- Expansion of facilities (artificial turf, all-weather track, lights and expanded locker rooms at Bison Stadium; 200 new parking spaces; Bethany Beanery in Morlan Hall);
- Academic initiatives (the Matthew Quay Ammon Professorship in Mathematics, the McCann Family Student Investment Fund, the John R. Taylor Award in Liberal Arts, the Cooey-Davis Experiential Learning Fellowship, Cooey Value Added Award and a wide variety of endowed funds);
- Technological and instrumentation upgrades (including Bethany’s participation in the Bowen Central Virtual Library of Appalachia).
Along with 31 new endowed funds established through giving, these and other achievements represent highly visible areas of support that are greatly appreciated. Moreover, during these very difficult economic times, The Bethany Fund has been essential to the College’s operational stability. The Fund provides support for salaries, faculty and staff development, travel, scholarships, the student work program, campus upkeep and much more.
Now, more than ever before, the need for alumni participation is critical.Whether or not you play the college-rankings game, it’s a reality that prospective students and their families, guidance counselors and others do give credence to external rankings of colleges and universities, ratings which are in part influenced by participation of alumni in their institutions’ annual funds. Further, as we visit with foundations, businesses, corporations and wealthy individuals, we are frequently asked about our alumni participation rate. While it is a respectable 11 percent above the national average, it still lags 10 percent behind that of our peer national liberal arts colleges. Although our endowment ranks first among private colleges in West Virginia, it is just one-tenth the amount of the very top of national liberal arts colleges nationwide.
In addition, planned gifts (trusts and estate gifts) form the foundation of success for most private colleges. As you make your estate plans, don’t forget Bethany. Providing for your alma mater is easy to do, and although you won’t see your impact immediately, you will enjoy the satisfaction that comes from building a legacy from which future generations will benefit. Truly, it is a gift that keeps on giving.
Our fall Phonathon is now underway with a team of students reaching out to alumni and friends throughout the country. These are students who are calling seeking support for scholarship funds that help underwrite their education. Please answer your phones, visit with our students and make a thoughtful gift that will impact the lives of many for years to come. Or make a gift now by clicking on the “Give a Gift Now” link on the front of our website (www.bethanywv.edu) . The academic profile of the Class of 2016 is the strongest in 12 years and one of the most impressive in 30 years. Clearly, our numbers are growing, but so is the need to provide a first-rate education. Every gift and every dollar count. Thanks in advance for your generous support.