On Dec. 31, 2011, SUNY Fredonia and the Fredonia College Foundation wrapped up the largest and longest capital campaign in the college’s history: the six-year, $15 million Doors to Success Campaign.
Together, the foundation board and the University Advancement team exceeded this goal – by more than $1 million! In doing so, they positioned the foundation and the college for unprecedented growth and development.
As 2011 came to a close, David Carnahan, chairman of both the campaign and the
Jamestown-based Carnahan-Jackson Foundation, and Dr. David Tiffany, Vice
President for University Advancement and executive director of the Fredonia College Foundation, shared their thoughts on the importance of this campaign to the future
of the college and its students.
Mr. Carnahan, your foundation presented the lead gift to this as well as the last two campaigns, dating back to 1995. What about SUNY Fredonia has made you commit so much of your time and philanthropy to this institution?
David Carnahan (DC): My mother, who started the Carnahan-Jackson Foundation, was very interested in education. In fact, there are only two areas that she specifically stated as things we should look at carefully: scholarships and libraries. That’s one of the reasons we can deal so easily with Fredonia. All the qualifications are here to fit what we want to do.
I’m also inspired by the people that I work with here – the staff, and the planned giving and joint committees. They are dedicated and willing to go above and beyond to meet our goals. From President Hefner on down, everybody was committed to this. That makes a huge difference.
Were you both given the resources and energy you needed by the university and its key constituents?
DC: We got all kinds of support. The staff, administration…I got a chance to talk to a lot of faculty over the years, and everyone was very positive. That’s a nice way to work when you’ve got so many people behind the project.
David Tiffany (DT): We had across-the-board participation, from the foundation board, the administration, the faculty and staff, and the community. We were able to reach out to key graduates, companies and organizations, some of whom we hadn’t worked with previously. We explained to them the opportunities that are available here at Fredonia, and the kind of impact they can have on our students and, through them, the world at large. We were really able to advance the way Fredonia is positioned in a lot of people’s minds.
When you meet a student who has been helped by the foundation, what goes through your mind?
DT: That’s why we all do what we do, so those moments when you get to see the results of all of that hard work are really very special. When you see a student graduate, land that first job, or get into a top graduate program…and you know that, if it wasn’t for the scholarship and guidance that we all shared with that individual, things probably wouldn’t have turned out this way…it really puts a smile on your face.
DC: For me, it really comes down to being there for the students. I’ve met a number of them – interns and students in general – and the quality of SUNY Fredonia’s students is great. They are enthusiastic about their work and about this college. They’re appreciative of what they’ve received, and appreciative of the college. This is a tough economy our students are facing, and for us to continue to attract the caliber of students we have, it just shows you the kind of reputation this college has developed.
What surprised you as the campaign rolled on? Did certain individuals or groups “step up?”
DC: The depth of loyalty to Fredonia shown by the alumni, as well as the staff and faculty, was outstanding. And when time came to do something, they did. They gave, they opened doors, they helped in any way that they could. We had some sizable gifts from people who really had no connection to Fredonia. I think one of the reasons is that Fredonia has, for a number of years, had very good management and a great staff. They’ve shown that they have been ready for whatever was coming down the road.
The unrestricted money, which is usually difficult to raise, has been obtained, and that was refreshing. Scholarships too. I think people have been a little nervous about the economy and careful about their giving, but if you have a case statement as good as Fredonia has, it makes a huge difference. We’re not going after frills here. These are very basic needs, and that was clearly stated, and people responded accordingly. Even when we had a couple of years that were pretty bad (economically), people continued to work and the donors continued to give. It’s going to help us for many, many years: students, faculty, staff, board members – everybody.
How important was the role of President Dennis Hefner?
DC: I marvel at Dennis. I’ve never known anybody who can be so many places at the same time. It’s amazing. In a campaign, when the head of the institution is as actively involved as he has been, it makes a huge difference. He understood this and was enthusiastic about it.
DT: Dennis’ support has been critical. He has traveled to many states over the last few years to attend alumni gatherings, meet with prospective donors and assure them of the focus, ethics and goals this university has. That’s the kind of peace of mind people are looking for when they are considering making a substantial gift. They need to know that there are good people, good stewards in place, so that the impact of their generosity will be maximized.
What do you see as the next big benchmark for the university to reach/surpass?
DC: To continue to strengthen our financial condition. The college is going to be in a campaign essentially forever. That’s the way that we’ll survive, and building this endowment is a huge step toward that. This is not just for present needs – it’s building a foundation for the future.
DT: We’ve made so much progress over the last several years. The foundation board has grown not only in numbers but also in professional breadth and geographic scope. That gives us greater expertise and diversity across the board, as well as more connections and a stronger network of influencers.