St. Thomas reached its goal of raising $25 million before a March 1 deadline so an anonymous donor would match the amount. Steve Hoeppner, executive director of development, said the department raised the last of the money just in time.
“We had an anonymous donor say they’d give us from July 1 to March 1 and said however much money we can raise in gifts of $1,000 and above, up to $25 million, they would match,” Hoeppner said. “As of [March 1], we got to $25 million.”
The grant is the largest matching gift in the university’s history. Hoeppner said it would not have been possible without the generosity of donors.
“There was $25 million in contributions and $25 million in the match, so to generate $50 million in eight months is a testament to all of those generous people who think enough of St. Thomas to say, ‘Absolutely, I’ll give my hard-earned money,’” he said.
Hoeppner said donors of all ages and graduation years contributed, making this “a real community effort.”
“Donors ranged from really young alumni to people who graduated from here 50 or 60 years ago,” Hoeppner said. “The one thing all of those people have in common is they got a St. Thomas degree or they went to the University of St. Thomas. It’s an extraordinary gift on their part to just give $25 million back to their university.”
The grant helps the university get closer to reaching its Opening Doors campaign goal of $500 million by fall 2012.
“Now that we’ve raised $25 million plus the $25 million match, we’re just [more than] $440 million of our $500 million goal,” Hoeppner said.
How the St. Thomas community benefits
Hoeppner said donor contributions are going toward scholarships and 230 programs or accounts on campus.
“Some people set up their own scholarship funds, which is great because we need lots of scholarship dollars,” Hoeppner said. “It was kind of surprising that people picked 230 different things that will end up benefiting from this person’s generosity.”
Hoeppner said many departments and colleges at St. Thomas will benefit from the grant, in addition to athletic teams, student clubs and programs such as VISION.
Important for students
Junior Alyssa Berg said receiving the donations shows how many people respect St. Thomas and want to provide students with financial aid.
“This money brings forth great opportunities for some students who would otherwise not be able to attend our school,” Berg said. “I know that if it were not for the scholarships that I receive from our school, I would not be able to attend. I think that putting money into education is one of the smartest things that we can do.”
Sophomore Derek Wilfahrt said he hopes to donate to St. Thomas after paying off student loans.
“I think it’s pretty amazing that we got all those donations. $25 million is not a small number,” Wilfahrt said. “I like my experience so far at St. Thomas, so I can see me donating in the future, but I have to take care of all my college student loans first.”
Sophomore Tracy Johnson said she likes that the donation was anonymous.
“I think it’s really nice to know that people are willing to anonymously donate that much money,” Johnson said. “We can see that it’s a selfless act instead of that person just getting their name out there. I do feel a sense of support from donors if they are willing to give such a generous donation.”
Cynthia Johnson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.