Blustery is the kindest spin to put on this cold, dark February afternoon. Guests streaming into Memorial Hall, dressed for dinner and the opera, are hunched against the wind, clutching wide scarves and the lapels of long worsted wool coats.
Theres serious celebrating to be done: The campuss first comprehensive campaign not only topped its financial goals by over $5 million, but did so a full year ahead of schedule. (See Over the Top, pages 29-36.) Many of the guests express if not disbelief an exuberant sort of wonder at this outcome.
There were many who said it was not possible, says outgoing Chancellor David Scott, who made this campaign to build image, enlist advocates, and raise at least $125 million a cornerstone of his tenure.
Its really sort of miraculous, says Bill Bennett 52, chair of the Springfield Area UMass Alumni Club. Fundraising isnt easy. Its nice to know grads are willing to support a public university.
But Bennett and others here tonight represent more than the fundraising successes. They represent success in friend-raising too. At the start of the campaign, the Springfield UMass club was in a fledgling state, one of only a half-dozen that had developed even that far. Today there are 40 UMass alumni clubs, most long since finished with being fledglings. My club is constantly on the go, says Bennett.
Kathleen Mitchell 79 of Dover was invited in honor of her stellar volunteerism. A stalwart of the Ambassadors program and one of the organizers for this Aprils womens conference, she looks around the room with pleasure, pointing out the fellow volunteers and donors and staff members shes come to know.
a great job making people feel good about giving to UMass, says
Mitchell. Its giving with a thank you attached.
This delight in obstacles overcome is a recurrent theme. So is pride. Im very loyal to UMass, says professor emeritus of English Peter Elbow. An internationally known expert on the teaching of writing who joined the faculty in the 1980s, he is one of the campaigns major donors.
I like a place thats committed to all students, says Elbow. Theres a kind of egalitarian spirit at UMass.
There could be no better spur to giving, it would seem, than this pervasive egalitarian spirit. Its a spirit that Royster Hedgepeth the vice chancellor for advancement who came to UMass to head this campaign, and is now moving to head fund-raising at the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield says is crucial.
Every year 3,800 new students show up with all their dreams and goals, says Hedgepeth. The people here tonight are committed to making the very best things happen for the students.
Among these celebrants,
says Hedgepeth, are some of very first believers in the campaign. You
have people here who gave to the campaign when it was just a glimmer
people who said Yes, were going to do it.
As exciting a place as this is, as strong a place as it is for teaching and research, its not surprising that we finished early, says Kinney. The founding director of the Center for Renaissance Studies an elegant facility made possible by the late Janet Dakins bequest of her Pleasant Street home he says the campaign has been especially inspiring in uncovering heretofore hidden interest in the university.
Donor, volunteer, and Amherst resident Mary Carney Rockwell 45 offers a story she hopes will become more and more typical as the campuss culture of giving continues to grow. At her last reunion, the class gift totalled more than $200,000. Equally important, We got a 100 percent response! Among 92 members of the Class of 45, every one made a financial commitment.
It gave me the sense that people were really going to come through, says Rockwell.
She adds that she too, heard some nay-saying at the beginning of the campaign. A lot of people said Oh, theyll never make it. But they did! People rallied!
Its the greatest thing UMass has ever done.
Campaign UMass has an official motto To Dream, To Act, To Lead but if it wanted an unofficial one, as it draws to a close, it might adopt a famous line from the opera that will cap this evening: Love is a gypsy child that knows no bounds.
The volunteers and donors come from everywhere. They give for many reasons. Not all were even previously connected with UMass. Amherst residents John and Elizabeth Armstrong, for instance, decided to establish a professorship in the College of Engineering, because of the value they see in the institution, even though neither attended UMass. Both express pleasure at the campaigns success and its early finish.
Its a triumph, says Elizabeth Armstrong. John adds that the accomplishment of a substantial goal suggests a great reservoir of goodwill for further advancement.
As dinner is served, the talk around the tables is already turning to the next campaign: that next, all-out effort which the university is sure to undertake. Even as they celebrate, these UMass people seem to have their eyes on the next large prize.
Hedgepeth smiles and lets his eyes roam around the room.
Its a lot of people with a lot of heart, he says.
Karen Skolfield 98G