‘Our Time Is Now’: Alma College Launches $120 Million Campaign

Record-setting gifts to enhance endowment, strengthen programs and modernize campus facilities.

Our Time
Alma College today launched the public phase of the most ambitious comprehensive fundraising effort in the school’s 133-year history.

“Our Time Is Now: The Campaign for Alma College” aims to raise $120 million by June 30, 2021 to enhance the institution’s endowment, strengthen and enrich key programs and modernize campus facilities.

“Alma College’s timeless values, family-oriented culture, personalized approach, outstanding academic programs and extraordinary people have transformed students’ lives for more than 130 years,” says Alma College President Jeff Abernathy. “This campaign — our most ambitious, by far — will ensure that future generations of students enjoy a transformative Alma experience and gain the skills and knowledge base they need to thrive in today’s complex, fast-paced world.”

Alumni and friends of the college have already committed more than $105 million during the initiative’s quiet phase, bringing the initial total raised to 88 percent of the overall objective. The college’s previous campaign, “Open Windows,” concluded in 2009 after raising a then-record sum of $37.3 million.

“This announcement marks an historic and inspired response to President Abernathy’s compelling vision for our college,” says Matt vandenBerg, vice president for advancement and external relations. “We are astonished by the phenomenal level of philanthropic support generated by this effort, and we reflect on our early progress with deep gratitude for the leadership, generosity and vision of so many.”

Learning Commons concept Learning Commons conceptThe primary focus for the public phase of the campaign is the completion of two vital capital projects. Specifically, the campaign seeks $22 million to transform the current library into a dynamic new Learning Commons and $2 million to modernize and refurbish Dunning Memorial Chapel, the campus icon. The Learning Commons will establish a new hub for campus activity that provides versatile, inviting places in which students, faculty and staff can collaborate, learn, teach, socialize and dine.

“This is a defining moment for Alma College,” says vandenBerg. “’Our Time is Now’ is galvanizing the entire college community, and we are inspired to stomp on the gas pedal and finish what we started for the sake of our students, our faculty and staff and our community.”

Funds raised during the campaign thus far have already completed 11 major priorities and numerous other projects, including:

  • Construction of the Gerstacker Science and Technology Suite, a new interdisciplinary, collaborative research space located in a previously empty courtyard of the college’s Dow Science Center.
  • A new glass-enclosed addition to the main athletics center housing the Hatcher Wrestling Room and Sherman Strength and Conditioning facility. This project created a new front for campus, added offices for coaches and provided space for Alma’s nationally acclaimed cheer program.
  • Reconstruction and renovation of the Wright Opera House in downtown Alma. In August 2019, after nearly a decade of challenges and headwinds, 39 students moved into the newly refurbished facility. The transformative project will help drive business investment downtown, offer 15,000 square feet of premium commercial real estate and feature an extraordinary wedding, conference and community events venue.

Donors have also enhanced the college’s endowment by establishing 29 new named, endowed funds and fortifying dozens of existing endowed funds. An additional 170 individuals created enduring legacies at Alma by including the college in their estate plans.

Dunning Memorial Chapel Dunning Memorial ChapelGifts of exceptional size have propelled Alma’s historic fundraising success. During “Our Time is Now,” the college has already secured many of the largest commitments in its history, including 28 gifts of at least $1 million. Included in those totals is the single-largest gift in Alma College history, which an anonymous donor provided. The $8 million commitment supports a range of priorities, including the endowment, select programs and the Learning Commons.

Another noteworthy gift came from the late Gunda Kaiser, Alma’s longtime professor of Spanish. During her three decades as a member of the college’s faculty, Kaiser taught more than 2,200 students and guided 144 Spanish majors through their academic careers. Upon her retirement, Alma’s Board of Trustees granted her the title of “Professor Emerita.” Kaiser was a major proponent of Alma’s performing arts programs and of international experiential learning. Her endowed gift of nearly $4 million will support students engaged in such activities in perpetuity.

Robust constituent engagement and volunteerism have contributed significantly to the college’s dramatic recent growth in philanthropic support. In 2015, the institution launched the Alma Ambassador Program®, a trend-setting, branded engagement initiative designed to organize, support and promote all types of volunteerism benefitting the college.

Ambassadors customize their participation and engage in myriad ways, including recruiting prospective students, staffing campus activities, offering career and internship support to students and encouraging others to make philanthropic gifts. In just four years, the program has grown to 4,500 members and is already the largest comprehensive volunteer engagement initiative among U.S. liberal arts institutions. Since the program’s inception, the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) has recognized the Alma Ambassador Program® and related initiatives with 10 international and regional awards. Alma seeks to expand membership in the program to more than 5,000 leaders during the campaign timeframe.

Story published on September 18, 2019