“Hooray! We made it!”
Webster Works campaign chair Jerry Ritter made sure to get that exhalation in before beginning his formal remarks to celebrate the completion of the campaign, which raised $56.5 million and surpassed its $55 million goal despite a turbulent economic environment.
Ritter, a Webster University trustee, thanked three people who were key to keeping the campaign on target: Webster University President Beth Stroble; Faith Maddy, vice president of Development and Alumni Programs; and Donna Wilkinson, fundraising consultant and head of the Wilkinson Group.
Ritter said he agreed to chair the campaign “because Webster University is a special place in the community and in our region … it’s so important that we support this institution.”
Stroble began the event by thanking donors — all 12,015 of them — and ticking off some of the major accomplishments of the campaign, which addressed three key areas of new classroom facilities, increased endowed scholarships and professorships for future students, and current operating needs through the Annual Fund.
The campaign created 45 new scholarships, made possible the new 94,323 square-foot East Academic Building and a future interdisciplinary sciences building, and saw faculty/staff participation in the Annual Fund increase from 21 percent in 2007-08 to 58 percent in 2010-11.
The Webster Works campaign also featured the largest-ever gift received from a graduate of one of Webster’s international campuses, as well as 13 gifts of $1 million and above during the campaign — including three in just the campaign’s final 12 months.
The largest gift in Webster’s history came from former U.S. Ambassador George H. Walker III, who bestowed $10 million upon the University’s School of Business & Technology. The school was named in his honor as the George Herbert Walker School of Business & Technology.
Other major donors included Anheuser-Busch Foundation, Larry and Jinny Browning, Edward Jones, Emerson, Sam and Marilyn Fox, Michael and Noemi Neidorff and Centene, and Jane and Bruce Robert, who established the first endowed professorship in Francophone Studies.
“The benefits of the Webster Works campaign are already being felt by our students, faculty and staff,” said Provost and senior vice president Julian Schuster, pointing to the East Academic Building that served as the backdrop for the celebration which opened for classes in the Spring 2012 semester. “Out there in this world there are great achievements to be made, and Webster has the vision to make them.”
But one of the Webster students who gets to experience the campaign’s benefits may have been the star of the evening.
Lauren Meyer, who graduated with a B.A. in 2010 and will graduate with her M.A. from Webster this year, spoke of the impact donors have made during her six years as a student, from her entrance as a freshman in fall 2006 to her time as president of the Student Ambassadors and as a graduate assistant today.
“I remember arriving in Fall 2006 for what at the time was the most exciting chapter of my life,” she said. “Webster University seemed like the place to be — and it was.”
From renovations of old spaces to the thriving learning communities — “Maria Hall fosters one of the strongest communities at Webster year after year,” Meyer said — students notice the impact.
“I have seen the growth here. I have seen the change,” she said. The campaign makes it so that each incoming class hears from upperclassmen how things have gotten better and better. “I want you to know that students truly appreciate our donors,” Meyer said. “It makes a difference.”