College launches $650 million fundraising campaign

Sankofa took the stage to celebrate the launch of the College’s $650 million fundraising campaign, Teach It Forward. Photo courtesy of the Office of Communications
Sankofa took the stage to celebrate the launch of the College’s $650 million fundraising campaign, Teach It Forward. Photo courtesy of the Office of Communications

On Saturday, the College launched Teach It Forward, a fundraising campaign that aims to raise $650 million.

At 8 p.m., a series of speakers announced the start of the campaign on the former grounds of Old Sawyer Library, now Library Quad. In the week leading up to the ceremony, the College placed artificial turf over the grass to prevent the formation of mud and erected a stage.

First, Leila Jere ’91, president of the Williams College Society of Alumni, addressed the crowd. Jere explained one of the campaign’s goals, called Purple with Purpose, which aims to engage alumni with the College in multiple ways, not solely through donations.

“Life is not all about the money,” Jere said.

Greg Avis ’80, chairman of the campaign, followed Jere and announced the campaign’s monetary goals. President Adam Falk then took the stage, adding, “We’re doing this for [the students].”

After Falk spoke, a video played with student cameos, highlighting the goals of the campaign. A series of performances followed, including members of the College’s acapella groups leading the crowd in “The Mountains,” Sankofa performing an impressive step routine and the marching band heading a parade to watch fireworks to conclude the event.

The campaign will raise money for five main areas. One of these areas is the Parent and Alumni Funds, for which the campaign has set a goal of $100 million. Donations to these funds, according to the Teach It Forward website, can be unrestricted, and therefore can be used for a variety of different purposes.

Another target of the campaign is financial aid, for which $150 million is desired. Despite this large sum of money, according to John Malcolm, vice president for college relations, there is “no answer” yet on whether this money will be used to make international admissions need-blind. According to Malcolm, however, the more resources the College has, the more viable international need-blind admissions becomes.

The campaign will allocate $150 million to the faculty. The College has plans to replace 100 retiring faculty over the next 10 years, and has recently already replaced 17. The new science laboratories and the replacement of Bronfman Science Center will cost an estimated $100 million of the campaign’s fundraising goal. The last area of the campaign, for which $150 million is earmarked, includes a variety of opportunities outside of the classroom for students, such as the Center for Learning in Action, the Career Center, athletics, student research and arts programming.

The three academic years prior to Saturday’s announcement constituted the “quiet phase” of the campaign. During this phase, the campaign raised $374 million. The current phase of the cam-paign will last for the next three academic years. The private phase allows for the campaign to build momentum in raising money, while in the public phase, the campaign can have a further reach.

The previous campaign lasted from 2003 until 2008 and raised slightly more than $500 million, surpassing its $400 million goal. Malcolm explained that the gap between the two campaigns was a result of the College hiring a new president.

“The expectation in higher education when a new president starts is that he gets to know the institution, then later the president articulates a vision for the institution, reflective of campus community priorities, which can only be realized through significant investment,” Malcolm said.

Malcolm denied that the College, by setting a large goal, was simply trying to keep up with the large campaigns of other undergraduate institutions.

“There certainly is competition among institutions, but that is not really a principal driver of the campaign,” Malcolm said.

Instead, the reason for the larger goal is a result of an increase in donations to the College, ac-cording to Malcolm. While gifts to the Alumni Fund are increasing at rates similar to inflation, major gifts have significantly increased.

“Alumni who have earned extraordinary wealth now have more capacity to be generous,” Malcolm said, explaining the increase in major gifts. He also added that donors have great respect for Falk.

According to Malcolm, campaigns are necessary because, in today’s world, giving typically works in cycles. While one institution may ask for money at a certain time, a second may not, and at another point in time, the reverse may be true. Campaigns let donors know the right time to give.

While the goal for alumni donation participation is 75 percent, the goal for participation in the campaign overall is 85 percent of alumni. Through Purple with Purpose, alumni can participate in the campaign by helping to recruit prospective students, volunteering as part of the Williams College Society of Alumni and helping current students with careers. Purple with Purpose also includes a song competition. The winning song will be added to the College songbook, and, along with “The Mountains,” will be an official College song.

More information about the campaign and Purple with Purpose can be found on the Teach It Forward website.

Other events on Saturday included free food and performances on Paresky Lawn from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. and an Ultra Lounge in Paresky, which included jazz music and more food from 8:30 p.m. to 12 a.m.