Phone Center raises $427,000 for annual fund

By , Reporter  |  Sunday, May 5, 2013 9:20 PM

The St. Thomas Phone Center raised $427,000 for the university annual fund this year, a decrease from the 2011-2012 school year when it raised $600,000. By doing this, around 50 student callers helped knock $6,000 off of yearly tuition, according to Phone Center Manager Mario Winburn.

Winburn said to raise this money, callers contact alumni, parents, friends and non-degree alumni, or people who transferred out of St. Thomas, each evening. The center usually receives donations ranging from $10 to $1,000, but has received pledges up to $4,000.

Junior Erin Whitacre asks an alumnus to donate money to the university. Callers have goals each night, and the number of calls students make depends their assigned segment and if alumni answer their phones. (Bjorn Saterbak/TommieMedia)

Junior Erin Whitacre asks an alumnus to donate money to the university. Callers have goals each night and the number of calls students make depends their assigned segment and if alumni answer their phones. (Bjorn Saterbak/TommieMedia)

“We have lots of large donors that give lots of money back to St. Thomas, which means we do not need a ton of money,” Winburn said. “We just need more people getting involved, whether that just be $5 or $10.”

Despite receiving less this year, the center isn’t low on pledges and decreased ask amounts to focus on participation.

Sophomore John Kumerow had never heard of the Phone Center on campus and was interested to learn more about what the center does.

“I don’t know necessarily that the amount raised is outrageous,” Kumerow said. “I mean it’s definitely up there.”

Winburn said students should know about the Phone Center because they will each receive a phone call at some point after graduation.

“If they know what goes on in here, they’d be more likely to give back after graduation,” Winburn said. “And one of the main goals of St. Thomas is participation, which means any amount matters.”

Senior Cody Haugen, Phone Center student manager, said he’s disappointed that no one on campus knows about the center.

“No one has any idea what we do,” Haugen said. “I want students to be aware of how hard we work for them, so that when we call you years down the road, you’ll be nice to the caller.”

Junior Lesley Marshall-Mahlick, a Phone Center employee, said the Phone Center’s work directly impacts students one way or another.

“A lot of people are oblivious to the fact that tuition doesn’t cover the full cost of school,” Marshall-Mahlick said. “That’s where the annual fund makes up for that difference and also making sure we have resources on campus; a lot of things students take for granted.”

Haugen said he wouldn’t be able to attend St. Thomas if it weren’t for the financial aid package and wants St. Thomas to recognize the work callers put in to help lower tuition.

“If we don’t continue to get that consistent help from parents and alumni, then those scholarships dwindle and eventually we won’t have endowment funds and scholarships available for students to attend a great school like St. Thomas,” Haugen said.

Of the calls he’s made, Haugen said he’s had good and bad phone calls, and he enjoys hearing old stories, like how Scooter’s used to be a bar.

“I’ve had an older gentleman just straight tell me he wasn’t giving me any money and called me a little turkey,” Haugen said. “On the good side, I’ve had job opportunities. There’s tons of those (calls) where opportunities are handed to you just because of the alumni you talk to.”

Marshall-Mahlick said her favorite people to call are business alumni.

“I’m a business student and I can get a little feedback from them and see how they’re able to utilize their degrees and any advice,” Marshall-Mahlick said. “They offer something for me to take from the conversation.”

Bjorn Saterbak can be reached at

This item was posted in News and has 2 comments so far.


  1. Patti Shaughnessy
    May. 6, 2013 9:02 AM

    Always happy to donate when I am able to, even though it may not be a lot…unfortunately, I do miss some of the calls due to bad CallerID info. Like many people out there, I don’t answer calls without indentifying info or ones with numbers I don’t recognize. I’m not sure if this is even something you can have any control over with the phone system you use…

  2. Abigail Rohlfing
    May. 13, 2013 4:08 PM

    Patti, I am a student manager in the phone center and saw your comment and have to say I am so happy to hear you like giving back to St. Thomas. It truly means a lot and any amount really matters! The CallerID information is something St. Thomas has been working on and actually improved on. Hopefully within the next year, everyone will know who is calling them and why. In the meantime, thanks again for your support and we hope to talk to you soon!

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