University campaign raises $300 million



Megan Welch

The Transforming Minds and Hearts campaign celebrated the achievement of its $300 million goal on Dec. 7 at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. This gala marked the end of a highly successful, multi-year effort to increase Villanova’s endowment and propel the University further onto the national stage.

Transforming Minds and Hearts began as the brainchild of President Emeritus Rev. Edmund Dobbin, O.S.A. The name is meant to convey the importance of the Augustinian experience at Villanova: a transformation of the mind through education, the heart through serving others.

The campaign began in 2001 in its quiet phase, an initial period of preparation and cultivation to organize and strategize. During this time the volunteers were recruited to lead and serve the campaign’s steering committee.

The 22-member committee was chaired by Gerald Cassidy, Class of ’63. Vice chairs included James Curvey, Class of ’57, and William Finneran, Class of ’63.

These members provided the campaign with some of its first donations and eventually some of its largest. Curvey, retired president and chief operating officer of Fidelity Investments, is a member of the Board of Trustees and chairman of its Athletics Committee. He committed a total of $7 million for scholarships and fellowships for students from his hometown, Mahanoy City, and northern Schuylkill County, Pa.

Joking about his time at Villanova, Curvey remarked that his extracurriculars were “mostly sports and girls.”

“I came from a little town in Pa. that I had never even been 50 miles outside of,” he said, acknowledging Villanova’s positive effect on his life. “I came to Villanova and thought, ‘Wow, this is the real thing.’ I had a great four years. It’s nice to give something back to the University that did a lot for me.”

Finneran, also a member of the Board of Trustees, helped kick-start the effort with a commitment that totaled $7 million. He is CEO of Edison Controls, chairman of the Patrons Program for the Archdiocese of New York and a partner in Exop Capital. The father of three Villanova graduates, Finneran donated $1 million toward the endowment for the basketball coach position during an earlier Villanova campaign.

“We exceeded our goals, and I think this time, it goes more toward the outside world in recognizing Villanova as a national university,” Finneran said.

In December 2004, already exceeding $130 million in donations, the campaign went public with an opening gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City where five leadership gifts were announced. Alongside Curvey and Finneran’s donations were commitments from Cassidy of $5.25 million; $5 million from the family foundation established by brothers James, Class of ’81, and William Davis, Class of ’85; and $3 million from Martin McGuinn, Class of ’64. These donors each increased these commitment totals later in the campaign.

By 2005 the campaign had reached 55 percent of its goal: $167.5 million. It was the biggest fundraising year in University history with a total of $74 million raised. In light of the continued support of alumni, the steering committee honored individuals who pledged over $100 thousand by naming them to the President’s Council.

In spring 2006 a gala was held in honor of the retiring Father Dobbin, and it was also announced that the campaign had raised $210 million to that point. University President Rev. Peter Donohue, O.S.A., is modest about his mere year and a half of involvement in the campaign. However, his actions in continuing the efforts of his predecessor brought the campaign to a timely completion and proved beneficial to University connections with alumni.

“One thing it allowed me to do very quickly was pick up on Father Dobbin’s initiative,” Donohue said. “I had to go out and meet alumni. I was able to talk about the goals of the University and hear their stories and how much they want to help.”

By the close of the campaign, it had surpassed the $300 million mark with the help of 40,000 donors. Of the money raised, 5 percent was from donations of more than $1 million.

The campaign achieved such a high level of success due to the collaborative efforts of everyone on campus. Donors, the Office of Development and administrators worked together to make sure all commitments satisfied the wishes of the donor as well as the needs of the University.

The real beneficiaries of the donations are the students. Campaign gifts have been allocated to many areas of the University. The funds affect academic initiatives and encourage new and innovative teaching programs, as well as the endowment of 13 new faculty chair positions throughout the four colleges and the School of Law.

Scholarship funding provides more students with financial assistance and merit recognition for exceptional scholars, as well as scholarships designed to bring in students from other nations.

One student has already benefited from the new scholarships. Annika Andersen is the first recipient of a generous scholarship for Swedish students established by former ambassador to Sweden, The Honorable Charles A. Heimbold Jr, Class of ’54, and his wife Monica. Andersen has enjoyed her time at Villanova, becoming part of the ski team, equestrian team and Spanish club. Her experience in America has helped her to become more independent.

“This is a very special place to be at, and I have met so many interesting people,” she said

Already, students can enjoy the new state-of-the-art athletic facility provided by the campaign funding. Ongoing facilities projects include the College of Nursing and the School of Law.

Some funding is allocated to enhance athletics in terms of coaching, training and facilities as well as academic assistance in the form of additional scholarships and counseling for student-athletes. Endowments provide for a track and field coach and a fund for athletic leadership in international competition.

Endowment contributions to the campaign strengthen the University’s overall financial position. In 1988 Villanova boasted an endowment of $20 million. It has increased to $360 million today, an all-time high.

The unrestricted nature of many of the funds committed is a unique aspect of the campaign.

The University feels it is an honor that donors trust the leadership of Donohue and the administration to make decisions that will enhance and improve the state of the University.

Donors provide immediate funding as well as commitments in the form of pledges, amounts of money that are promised to the University over a specified period of time. The money that has come in directly is about $196 million. The rest will come as future awards to the University, culminating in a gradual process of implementation for the University enhancements.

Friday’s black-tie gala celebrated the end of the successful process through recognition of the many donors, committee members and leaders.

The University also included students to participate in the evening and identify the theme of the night as “Faces of Villanova.” The students’ presence was a surprise to the donors.

Set in the ballroom of the Waldorf-Astoria, Jonathan Doh, the Herbert G. Rammrath Endowed Chair in International Business, and Yulia Barnakova, a senior finance and international business major, co-hosted the event.

Doh caught the attention of the eager crowd while the students took their place in the wings of the second-floor balcony. He acknowledged the contributions of the entire Villanova student community.

“I am proud to be joined here this evening with over 100 students from campus who are here tonight to celebrate this moment with you,” he said.

At the cue of the word “100” the students strolled out on stage to the delight of the excited donors.

“We thought we had ruined the surprise because we were stationed on the second-floor balcony,” said SGA Vice President Dave Pedra.

After Donohue’s invocation, dinner began with students seated one or two to an assigned table as a way of allowing the donors to meet the faces of a new generation. Pedra describes an atmosphere of networking and connecting among the alumni and the students looking to enter their field of work.

“You always hear about the Villanova alumni network,” Pedra said. “But it was really cool to actually see it in action.”

Student speakers announced special leadership gifts in each of four categories: undesignated gifts, academic initiatives and scholarships, facilities and endowment.

Major leadership gifts of $4.5 million and above include: Ambassador Heimbold Jr. ($10 million), the Davis Family Foundation ($10 million), Lawrence Waterhouse Jr., Class of ’59 ($8 million), Cassidy ($7 million), Curvey ($7 million), Finneran ($7 million), McGuinn ($5 million) and William Gibson, Class of ’66 ($4.5 million).

Andersen, one of the student presenters, enjoyed her experience presenting to the donors, although she was nervous at first.

“This is something I never would have had the chance of doing at home, and my parents are very proud of me,” she said.

For her, the gala was a way to see a side of Villanova that is very different from the schools of her home country.

“Villanova is very strongly bonded, which really came across at the gala,” Andersen said. “It was touching to see so many people dedicated to the university, which I think is different from schools in Sweden.”

The pep band provided one final surprise with playing of the school’s fight song complete with colored confetti blanketing student and donors alike.

Pedra believes that the night provided Villanova alumni and students an important chance to see the depth of Villanova’s continued strive for development and recognition at the higher education level.

“I think that, from the donors I talked to, it was really well received,” he said. “When you see others who benefit you realize it really is a collective interest to make Villanova the best that it can be.”

Donohue believes the mingling of generations was an important aspect of the evening.

“What impressed alumni and donors across the board were the students,” he said “They all said it was so impressive how they handled themselves.”