Alumni fund raises record amount

The Williams College Alumni Fund raised a record $5,584,895.21 from 12,595 donors in its 1998-99 drive. This exceeds their goal of $5.1 million and 60 percent alumni participation, and is the highest amount ever raised by the Fund during the nearly five month drive.

The Alumni Fund Drive ran from October 1, 1998 though February 15, 1999. The donors were Williams alumni from the classes of 1914 though 1998; the largest donation was the class of 1979’s $386,052.52.

Director of Annual Giving Fund Joan Jenova ’89 explained that this record drive solidifies a “tradition of support.” Alumni who give to this fund – 58.6 percent of every person who has spent at least one semester at Williams – continue to say “it’s a way to show commitment, faith in the education they received, and acknowledgement of the alumni who supported them,” Jenova said.

Alumni Fund Chair Hugh Weedon ’53 echoed similar sentiments, stating that because “generations of alumni hold very strong feelings about their inheritance and belonging to an historic community,” the College is able to provide “‘gold standard’ education.”

The Williams College Society of Alumni is the world’s oldest continuing alumni organization. Begun by Emory Washburn, Class of 1817, after President Zephaniah Swift Moore defected with half the student body to form Amherst College, it has significantly aided the development of the College. Washburn established the Society not just to raise the College’s revenues, but “to advance the reputation and interests of our Alma Mater.”

Today, the Society operates with the same goal. The Alumni Fund, which organizes such fund-raising drives, operates as a sub-committee of the Society of Alumni. Each graduated class has a Head Agent, with as many as twenty-five Associate Agents; these agents are involved with direct communication to their classmates with regards to financial donation. Class Agents who have served “with distinction” are invited to become an Alumni Fund Vice Chair. Serving for a five year term, Vice Agents meet thrice a year to set goals and design strategy for the Fund. Alumni Fund Chair, currently Hugh Weedon ’53, typically serves for three years.

The Alumni Fund currently provides 6 percent of the College’s operating budget. Without such gifts, as Jenova and Weedon explained, the College would need to increase each student’s tuition by $2,500 to maintain current program levels.

According to the Alumni Fund, “tuition, room, board and student fees continue to cover less than half of the College’s actual expenditures per student.” A combination of alumni donations and money from the College endowment care for the remaining costs. Additionally, with the help of the Alumni Fund, the College endowment is allowed to maintain its spending rate average increase of 4 percent over the past twenty years.

The alumni contributions go directly to such programs as: financial aid, faculty salaries, library acquisitions, laboratory and classroom equipment, career and health services, athletic programs and student activities.

None of these programs are funded entirely by the Alumni Fund, nor are any by the endowment. Instead, they share varying fractions of the cost with additional funding from student tuition and other resources.

Like other Alumni leaders, Head Agent of the Class of 1955, Norman Hugo MD ’55, is “pleased with the performance and continued persistence of the undergraduates.” He is tremendously pleased with this year’s contributions, and finds that the Fund’s general success and contentment of Alumni are a “significant endorsement of the liberal arts curriculum.”

Still, Hugo is bothered by the College Alumni who do not contribute. While students, Hugo explains, they enjoyed benefits provided by graduates. Now that they are in the position to help continue such benefits, they should contribute to the Fund. Hugo stresses that any donation is a significant one, as classmates are encouraged to give when others set a “positive tone.” “It is not about money so much as it is about participation,” Hugo added.

Jenova noted that the sole living graduate of Williams College Class of 1914, also the oldest living graduate, has contributed regularly since his graduation and was involved in the record-setting fund drive.

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