WSSU launches $35 million campaign

By Todd Cohen

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. — Aiming to be a regional school that helps fuel the Triad’s growth, Winston-Salem State University has launched the public phase of a $35 million capital campaign.

The campaign, which began its quiet phase in January 2001, already has raised over $18 million in cash and pledges.

“We want to be able to have majors and academic disciplines that help with the economic development and economic growth of this region,” says Lee Richardson, interim vice chancellor for university advancement.

The school in recent years has nearly doubled its enrollment, enrolled freshmen with higher SAT scores, added two residence halls, moved to expand its graduate programs, and created four “centers of excellence” to market and connect its academic programs with the community and local industry.

With health care, financial services and biotechnology replacing manufacturing as the engine of the region’s economy, Richardson says, Winston-Salem State needs to invest in programs, faculty, scholarships and facilities to attract and retain students who can “go on to become employees in this economy.”

The fundraising campaign expects to generate 75 percent to 80 percent of its goal from individual donors, including roughly 10,000 alumni, along with faculty, staff, students and friends of the school.

The campaign already has received $2.27 million from alumni and friends, $2.2 million from foundations and $1.4 million from corporations, says Michelle Cook, executive director of the Winston-Salem State University Foundation.

The biggest gift so far is $1.25 million from the R.J. Reynolds Foundation to endow a professorship and a new scholarship fund.

Andrew Schindler, non-executive chairman of Reynolds American, parent of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co., serves as the campaign’s national chair.

Other big gifts include $1 million from Wachovia Corp.; $700,000 from the John Ehle Vernon Jordan Trust; $380,000 from Marshall Bass, a former RJR Nabisco executive; $350,000 each from Sara Lee Knit Products Division and BB&T; and $250,000 from John Medlin, Wachovia’s CEO emeritus.

Alumni have pledged $1.892 million, recognizing the school’s founding in 1892, and the Winston-Salem State University National Alumni Association has pledged $100,000 for student scholarships.

The school aims by the end of the campaign in December 2007 to increase to $4.5 million to $5 million annual gifts from alumni, staff, faculty and friends.

Annual giving in the fiscal year ended June 30 totaled $3.5 million, up fro $725,000 four years earlier.

A phone-a-thon this fall, the school’s first ever staffed by students, generated more than $253,000 in alumni pledges.

WSSU also has expanded its marketing and communications staff; revived its alumni magazine, now published four times a year; purchased software to provide permanent email addresses to all new graduates; and built a database of 2,000 email addresses of existing alumni.

Funded with $36 million from the WSSU Foundation, the school also has opened two residence halls with 850 beds.

And it has created centers of excellence for health sciences, teaching, information technology, and financial services.

The investment so far has been paying off, Richardson says.

Enrollment has grown to 5,566 this fall from 2,857 in 2000, when Harold L. Martin Sr. became chancellor, Richardson says

SAT scores of entering freshmen have increased by more than 50 points in recent years, he says, and 97 percent of the recent graduates of the school’s nursing program who took the state’s certification boards passed.

“We would hope the community recognizes the positive investments we’ve made in the university,” he says, “and will continue its support.”

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