NORTH MANCHESTER – Manchester University President Jo Young Switzer is sailing into retirement on a high note – more than a million high notes, in fact.
Students First!, a university fundraising campaign that began in 2007, has surpassed a $100 million goal nearly 18 months before the campaign's deadline date.
By Thursday, thousands of donations had brought the total to $108.4 million, the largest raised in the history of the school, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary.
“It's been amazing,” said Switzer, who will report to work for the last time Monday.
Although the mission was successful, the campaign provided more than a few moments of angst for some faculty members.
In February, Switzer was worried. The deadline was looming, and they were still millions short.
The defining moment – when Switzer realized it was going to happen – came soon after that when Switzer got word of a $5.1 million gift from 94-year-old Herb Chinworth – the largest alumni gift the school has ever received. A new administration building – to be built in the next five years – will be named after Chinworth's parents, Lockie and Augustus Chinworth of Warsaw.
“It was a tremendous gift – a gift that allowed me to breathe again,” Switzer said, laughing.
She was not the only one with doubts.
“I was a latecomer to the process,” said Tim McElwee, vice president for university advancement. “They already had $90 million contributed when I arrived in November, so I was surprised when they wrapped it up eight months later.
“While this might not be a huge achievement for a college like Notre Dame or Purdue – compared to them, we are small – and it was a testament to donors' dedication and belief in our mission and vision,” he said.
Switzer was the stimulus who brought in so many donations, McElwee said.
“The alumni I talked to said that Jo Switzer was a leader who got things done, and they knew it would be agonizing for (Switzer) not to have this huge thing done when she retired,” he said.
About $10 million arrived in the past month, much of it given to celebrate the leadership of Switzer, who has been the university's president for the nearly 10 years. She also has served as a student leader in the 1960s, alumna, professor, department chair and vice president and dean for academic affairs.
Nestled among picturesque farmland in the small town of North Manchester, the cozy campus and its 1,400 students exude the spirit of a tight-knit community. This is a place where generations of alumni came of age and where fond memories inspire them to give back – time and time again.
“Without my Manchester experience, I don't believe I would have been as successful,” said Dave Haist, retired Do it Best Corp. chief operating officer. A 1973 graduate, Haist and his wife, Sandy, a 1974 graduate, co-chaired the Campaign Cabinet. “It's our job to give back to those who have helped us,” Haist said.
More than 50,000 gifts came from Manchester alumni, corporations such as The Dow Chemical Co. that matched alumni donors, area corporations such as Steel Dynamics Inc., and foundations and churches.
A recently built Academic Center was named in honor of former Manchester Trustee Mike Jarvis, a 1968 graduate, and his wife, Sandy, of Franklin who gave $5 million to the campaign.
“Many donors continue to give, even though they do not have a lot of wealth,” Switzer said. “We get a lot of smaller gifts.”
The goal of the campaign was originally set at $65 million, but when Lilly Endowment Inc. gave $35 million, the game changed.
“We decided to add that onto the goal and go for $100 million instead of saying we were at almost 60 percent of our goal,” Switzer said.
Lilly Endowment enabled the university to establish the MU College of Pharmacy in Fort Wayne, which opened two years ago.
About 68 percent of the $108.4 million is available for use with the remainder in bequests and other planned giving, Switzer said.
A portion of the campaign funds will be used for endowed scholarships, faculty development and to fund the operating budget.
“Fifty-three endowed scholarships or programs have already been established,” McElwee said.
A third of the money has already been used for the new Academic Center. In addition, the aged and deteriorating 85,000-square-foot administration building will be replaced with a smaller, greener facility, and a stand-alone chime tower will be built in the center of the campus.
The 10-bell chime rings twice daily during the school year and for special occasions, creating fond memories for alumni and faculty. Selected students play the chimes, a tradition that has continued for 92 years.
“Every initiative of Student First! is living up to the name,” Switzer said. “Our student learning spaces have improved dramatically. The endowment is larger, and there are more endowed funds for student scholarships and more resources for faculty to help our students.”
The campaign's success and the effects of that success will have a ripple effect in northeast Indiana, Switzer said.
“The School of Pharmacy has had a huge economic impact on Fort Wayne and visibility in the region,” she said.
The school created 40 to 45 well-paid jobs and is creating opportunities in Fort Wayne as students work in pharmacy- and medical-related businesses there, she said.
In Wabash County, there's a new energy that has resulted from initiatives sponsored by the Northeast Indiana Regional Partnership, of which Switzer has been a member for years.
The Wabash County Promise is part of the region's larger initiative – a 10-county effort to nearly double the number of residents with two- or four-year degrees or industry-recognized credentials.
In September, more than 1,600 children from kindergarten through third grade visited Manchester's campus and got a taste of higher academia. The students opened a $25 college account – setting records for the highest rate of K-3 students with a 529 account than any other county in the U.S.
“It was crazy, there were kids everywhere,” Switzer said. “The campaign did not cause any of that to happen, but part of the energy of the overall climate. Two other counties in the region are now following our lead.”
One of the things that makes this country so great is the practice of philanthropy, Switzer said.
“Those who have the means give to others; a lot of countries do not do this,” she said. “American values, generosity and giving to a better good or to projects you may never see finished is amazing.”