This weekend the University will announce the public launch of a nine-year, $600 million comprehensive capital campaign that will become the largest single fundraising initiative in school history. Although this campaign will be a constant theme punctuating the Homecoming festivities, the University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A., will officially announce its launch at the invitation-only Black Tie Gala on Saturday at 6 p.m. under the tent on Austin Field. Following the gala, the 400-plus guests and donors will migrate to the Oreo where they will be joined by hundreds of students for “Ignite the Night,” a culminating celebration involving a xyloband-powered human light show. This event begins at 8 p.m. and is open to all.
In an interview with The Villanovan, Mike O’Neill, vice president for University Advancement, revealed the details of this historic campaign.
“This campaign is meant to actualize the vision of the Strategic Plan,” O’Neill said, referring to the ongoing project aimed at reinvigorating the University and increasing its national stature.
O’Neill explained that there are four core components of the campaign: $250 million for endowment, $150 million for building projects, $125 million for immediate investment in academic and program priorities and $75 million in unrestricted funds.
Half of the money raised for endowment will be designated for student financial aid and scholarships, while the remaining funds will go toward programmatic endowments like endowed chairs and centers for excellence. Funds raised for building projects will primarily support the long-term South Lancaster Avenue development, which will feature a performing arts center and new residence halls. They will also support renovations of the Pavilion, Falvey Memorial Library and Tolentine Hall.
Donations received for academic and program priorities will generate ongoing support for the deans’ priorities in each college and benefit programs like Campus Ministry. Finally, the unrestricted dollars will be reserved for an array of areas, including but not limited to the Strategic Plan, financial aid and the regular operating costs of the University.
Although this weekend marks its public launch, this campaign started in earnest four years ago with the goal of building a groundswell of private support. And that it did—in excess of $280 million was raised during this private phase. Many groups contributed to this initial surge including the Board of Trustees, parents, alumni and various corporations and foundations.
“The idea is to use the time frame before the public launch as a mechanism to engage your closest donors and supporters so you have full confidence you can reach your goal,” O’Neill said. “You use the public launch as a way to inspire giving among the larger institutional community. [Homecoming] is sort of the springboard for the public phase.”
Both O’Neill and George Kolb, associate vice president for Alumni Relations, stressed the inclusive nature of the campaign, noting that everyone affiliated with the University will experience its benefits and is thus encouraged to make a donation—no matter how big or small.
“Everyone is involved,” Kolb said. “Students, parents, friends, alumni—everyone. I think it really speaks to the comprehensiveness of this campaign.”
It is for this exact reason that the University decided to go public with this initiative during Homecoming Weekend. Owing to its potentially transformative impact for current, past and future Villanovans, the Campaign Committee—comprised of Donohue, O’Neill, James C. Davis and Terence M. O’Toole—wished to incorporate as much of the University community as possible.
“We wanted to be as broad as possible in enabling everyone to be a stakeholder in the launch itself,” O’Neill said.
Homecoming Weekend is chock-full of activities and events from Friday to Sunday. These include the Alumni Association Volunteer Leaders Conference, Carr Society Inaugural Event and Young Alumni Pub Night on Friday; the Campaign Brunch, Homecoming Festival and football game on Saturday; and the Office of Admission Legacy Day Program on Sunday.
“All of these events will have a campaign thread that will run through them,” Kolb said.
Of course, the main events will be the Black Tie Gala and Ignite the Night, during which the campaign and its official name will be announced on Saturday evening.
Kolb and O’Neill encourage students to partake in as many of these activities as possible, while also learning more about how they are both integral to and implicated in the success of the capital campaign.
“This is an opportunity for students to understand that their relationship with their alma-mater isn’t four years,” O’Neill said. “It’s lifelong, and it’s mutually beneficial.”