A Gift That Keeps on Giving

Rebekah Ward

Although Colgate’s traditional Homecoming bonfire was rained out last Friday, the sun showed up for Saturday morning’s pre-football game festivities, where a new class’s legacy was cemented. There, the Senior Class Gift Committee (SCGC) sponsored the Homecoming tailgate for the Class of 2010, where they officially announced this year’s senior gift: a donation to the Sustainability Fund.

Seniors had one week to vote online for one of three gift options that had been pre-selected by the SCGC. The committee encouraged the senior class to vote through several e-mails and a table at the O’Connor Campus Center (Coop). Their reminders seem to have worked, as 407 students voted, totaling 60 percent of the class (8 percent more than last year). Of these 407 voters, 46 percent voted for the Sustainability Fund.

The other two options that the Committee selected were donations to go towards an Endowed Scholarship Fund or a Diversity Fund. The Endowed Scholarship Fund pulled up a close second with 40 percent of the senior class votes, but the Diversity Fund straggled behind at just 14 percent.

According to senior Jess Mawhirt, co-head of marketing and one of seven SCGC executive board members, this imbalance probably had to do with the limited space available for the online blurb describing each gift. This is the first year Dean of Diversity Keenan Grenell has requested money for his initiatives as a senior gift. According to Mawhirt his presentation in front of the SCGC was passionate and convincing.

“I think that if we had been able to convey that message [to our fellow seniors] it would have gotten more votes,” Mawhirt said.

Senior John Greenfield, SCGC Executive Board member and Coordinator of Leadership Giving Initiatives, was excited about the result of the vote.

“I can’t say that I necessarily expected the seniors to choose Sustainability, as I thought we had three excellent choices,” Greenfield said.

He expressed his belief, however, that this choice reflects the foresight of the senior class, and that building on the success of the 2008 senior gift (which was also a donation to the Sustainability Fund) is “a great thing.”

Although this year’s gift will contribute to the same fund as the senior gift from 2008, the money itself will go to different initiatives that the SCGC will help develop in working closely with Colgate’s Sustainability Coordinator John Pumilio. Ideas that are currently on the table include recycling bins on campus, a community vegetable garden, campus composting facilities and research into renewable energy use at Colgate.

Now that the gift has been chosen, the hard work for members of the SCGC will begin. With the help of Assistant Director of the Annual Fund Mike Tone ’07, these 25 seniors will not only serve as representatives of their class while working with Pumilio, but will also be hosting events and making appearances throughout the year in an attempt to bring the Class of 2010 together and drum up enthusiasm for giving back to their school.

These 25 students each went through an application process, which included a written submission and an informal interview.

“This year we have a very balanced committee, and they’re very enthusiastic about the chance to give back to Colgate,” Tone said.

Their enthusiasm seems to have already paid off-after the Homecoming tailgate, the committee had already raised $3,800, with a seven percent participation rate from the senior class. This figure is up from the 949 dollars raised with a two percent participation rate at this time last year. More impressive yet, 37 of the 51 donations thus far have been at the President’s Club level, which indicates a donation of $100 or more.

The SCGC has set their sights high this year.

“There is always a goal for senior class participation. Our goal this year is 95 percent, which would be the highest participation rate in recent Colgate history,” Mawhirt said.

In addition to this percentage goal, the committee aims to raise upwards of $50,000.

Their real aspiration, however, is to find a way to obtain $100,000 to put towards the Sustainability Fund in order to endow their gift. If they reach this figure the gift will be put away and accumulate interest every year that will be given to the Fund. This would essentially ensure that the 2010 gift would continue giving for an indefinite period of time.

The SCGC hopes to continue chipping away at this goal throughout the fall, but the next event they will host for the class of 2010 will be Oktoberfest, held at the Colgate Inn on October 22.

Thus, the committee seeks to “remind seniors of the gift while they are having a good time,” according to Mawhirt.

But the goal of the Committee is really to “educate our peers while sharing with them the reasons that each of us believes in the mission of the Senior Class Gift – leaving our class’s legacy at Colgate,” Greenfield said.