Open Letter to our Alumni and Friends
I am sure you have a story about your first time on campus.
It was August 1975 when I first set foot on the Western Illinois University campus. And it was nuts! I stood in a line that stretched from the southeast side of Horrabin Hall to Stipes Hall to register for my fall quarter classes. And when I finally made it into the gym I found myself waiting in more lines to pick up my class cards. And then I did it all over again for the winter quarter ... and the spring quarter .... but in a big open room on the second floor of Sherman Hall.
I’m sure you have stories about the good times you had at Western after your first day on campus, and about the impact that Western has had on your life.
My job has led me all over the United States and has allowed me to hear your stories. It has allowed me to talk with alumni who have graduated in every decade from the 1920s to today. Everywhere I go, I sense a feeling of pride and commitment to Western. You talk about making lifelong friends; or of the professor who made a difference in your life; of meeting your spouse or significant other at Western and going back for visits with your kids; or your favorite eating spot or bar; or Lake Argyle; or how Western gave you the opportunity to learn and grow and through that experience land a job and start a career.
It is gratifying to know that so many of you who credit Western with assisting in the successes in your lives have stepped forward to support our current $60 million campaign. We are now over $50 million toward our goal and I have no doubt that by Dec. 31, 2013, when the campaign ends, we will have exceeded our goal. The question is: “By how much?” And that depends on how many of you who have not yet contributed to the campaign do so in the coming year.
The last decade has certainly changed the landscape of higher education. No longer does money freely flow to the public colleges and universities, and no longer is it a given that students can apply for, and receive, financial aid. Western Illinois University is facing a critical time in its future and there is no doubt that for our alma mater to continue to offer access and opportunity to higher education, our alumni must step forward and support WIU just as if we were a private institution.
I could be practical and talk about our needs because of the problems the state is facing; because our budgets are declining; because the cost of an education at Western exceeds $18,000 annually and that can cause hardships for some of our students; because of the staggering costs of deferred maintenance on our campus; because of the never-ending battle to keep abreast of technology; and the list goes on ....
I could talk about the positives: how graduates of Western have succeeded in so many different arenas; how we opened a new campus in the Quad Cities; how we had a student interview for a prestigious Rhodes Scholarship; how we had an alumnus receive a Pulitzer Prize; or how we had a faculty member receive a Fulbright Award and another discover a new dinosaur.
If you experienced great times at Western, if it made a difference in your life, if you want your alma mater to succeed, if you understand the challenges as outlined above and the successes we have achieved regardless of those challenges, and if you have not given back, what is it that stops you from making a pledge when you get that phone call? What is it that stops you from sending a check when you get that letter from a student studying the same major as you and telling you how much your support means to Western? What is it that stops you from supporting scholarships on campus when you hear from our students that they are only at Western because of scholarship support?
You will get a call. Please answer the call. You will get a letter. Please don’t put it into the “maybe” file or the “to do later” file. Please don’t throw it away. Answer the letter. Every gift counts. Please don’t sit back and say “I can only give $15 (or $25 or $50 or $100) and that just won’t make a difference.” Imagine the impact if 10,000 of you who have never made a gift to Western would step forward and make a gift of $25 or more.
Imagine if another 10,000 step up and contribute $1,000 or more. I know we have that capability. I know we have that many alumni who feel strongly about their time at Western and the positive impact Western has had on their lives.
Imagine if another 10,000 alumni contacted our office and asked for information about making a major gift of $10,000 or more, or establishing a scholarship endowment of $25,000 or more.
I know that we have alumni who can step forward and make major six- and seven-figure gifts that would forever change the face of Western Illinois University. We have already received such gifts during this campaign, and we are so grateful to our benefactors. We need to establish endowed chairs and we need to improve our facilities. We need to establish more—and larger—scholarships. We need these types of gifts just as the larger public universities and the private universities need them.
Finally, we need you to consider putting Western in your charitable estate plans. We have received tremendous support from those who have done so already. We have more than $30 million in future estate gifts that are planned for Western at this point.
If you want to have a discussion about a major or planned gift, I will get in my car or hop on a train or plane and visit with you. No arm-twisting, just an honest discussion between alumni about how your gift can make a difference for our alma mater; how your gift will make Western a better place; and about how your gift will help a student achieve his or her dream of graduating from college.
Make a difference this year. Answer the call or the letter with your support for Western.
Brad Bainter '79 MS '83
Vice President for Advancement & Public Services