Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones (center) announces the total of the university’s seven-year Connect Today, Create Tomorrow fundraising campaign Friday. The record-setting campaign raised nearly $238 million ($237,995,578) in gifts and pledges. (Photo by Paul Vernon)

Creating Tomorrow

Ohio Wesleyan Raises Nearly $238 Million in Record-Setting Fundraising Campaign

By Cole Hatcher

DELAWARE, OHIO – In July 2014, Ohio Wesleyan University launched its $200 million “Connect Today, Create Tomorrow” comprehensive fundraising campaign.

Seven years later, the most successful campaign in OWU history has concluded with $237,995,578 in gifts and pledges – surpassing even its $225 million stretch goal by nearly $13 million.

“I am grateful to every one of the 19,900 donors who supported this historic effort,” President Rock Jones, Ph.D., said in announcing the fundraising total. “Thanks to the generosity of our alumni, students, employees, parents, friends, foundations, and corporations, the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign is transforming Ohio Wesleyan University with record-setting support for our students, faculty, and physical campus.”

Jones shared the news during a campus gathering Friday that concluded the campaign and kicked off this year’s Homecoming and Family Celebration Weekend.

Supporting OWU Students and Faculty

The largest pool of funds raised during the campaign, more than $68.4 million, is benefiting students directly, helping them to access an Ohio Wesleyan education regardless of their financial circumstances. These contributions are supporting 278 scholarship and financial aid programs, including 197 newly endowed funds.

The campaign also is supporting 52 additional initiatives related to the university’s signature program, The OWU Connection. The program is designed to help students think big (understand issues from multiple academic disciplines), go global (gain international perspective), and get real (translate classroom knowledge into real-world experience).

In addition, the campaign raised nearly $22.1 million to support opportunities for OWU professors, including programs to recruit, foster, and develop a diverse and dedicated faculty who work together to educate, shape, and inspire Ohio Wesleyan students.

Autumn Ford, president of Ohio Wesleyan’s student government, said those who contributed to the campaign have created “an amazing opportunity to enhance each and every student’s OWU journey.”

“The value of the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign to the OWU student experience is unmatched,” said Ford, a junior from New Albany, Ohio. “The donations go beyond the dollar amount. This campaign allows you to provide students with opportunities to engage and connect with their peers in a unique way. The funding helps students explore their intellectual experiences and get one-of-a-kind opportunities to travel while incorporating their field of interest. Your commitment to give will have a lifelong impact on students and transform their college experience.”

Renewing the Physical Campus

More than $61.2 million is being invested into the Ohio Wesleyan campus thanks to the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign, including work to replace and restore student housing, enhance athletics facilities, and transform historic buildings to accommodate innovative working and learning spaces.

The campaign’s Residential Renewal initiative already has transformed campus life, with 48 percent of students residing on campus now living in houses, halls, or apartments built or renovated with campaign funds.

Highlights of this work include building the new Bradford Milligan Hall senior-student apartment complex and transforming Smith Hall into a living and learning community designed to help first-year students make peer connections and persist to graduation.

During the seven-year campaign, Ohio Wesleyan also has built three new duplexes to house small-living units, a new 27-bed honors house, and a new Butler A. Jones House of Black Culture.

Additional highlights to the physical campus include renovating Branch Rickey Arena with new flooring, seating, lighting, sound system, scoreboards, and air-conditioning, and renovating and expanding Edwards Gymnasium to include the new Simpson Querrey Fitness Center, complete with the Jannuzi Dance Studio and classrooms.

In addition to these residential and athletics spaces, campaign funds also have supported the renovations of academic and office space including Merrick Hall, creating the home of The OWU Connection; Elliott Hall, the oldest building on OWU’s 179-year-old campus; and Slocum Hall, which is being renovated now. The 123-year-old campus landmark is set to reopen in fall 2022, with residents including the Admission and Career Connection offices.

Breaking Fundraising Records

Natalie Doan, Ohio Wesleyan’s vice president for University Advancement, said not only is Connect Today, Create Tomorrow the university’s largest-ever campaign, but it set other fundraising firsts as well.

The campaign set records for the most funds contributed to the university in a single fiscal year, with $42 million raised during 2018-2019, and for the largest single outright gift in Ohio Wesleyan history, with $10 million contributed by an anonymous alumni couple in May 2019 to support the Slocum Hall project, said Doan, a 2003 Ohio Wesleyan graduate.

In addition, the campaign attracted 6,896 first-time donors and raised nearly $35.7 million to support the university’s annual fund.

“What is most important,” Doan said, “is the enduring impact of these gifts. We asked people to connect, and nearly 20,000 responded. We asked them to help us create tomorrow, and they contributed nearly $238 million in gifts and pledges. Our donors have helped to make an Ohio Wesleyan education accessible for countless students. Their generosity will ripple, with these new alumni helping to create a better nation and world.”

Enabling Transformational Experiences

Like Doan, campaign co-chairs and Trustees John F. and Kathryn Bradford Milligan, both Class of 1983, said they also are excited by new opportunities now available to generations of Ohio Wesleyan students thanks to the record-setting Connect Today, Create Tomorrow campaign.

“Ohio Wesleyan provided the foundation for us, and our son, to build meaningful and fulfilling lives and careers,” the couple said. “We want other students and families to have these same transformational experiences – to connect with faculty mentors, discover academic passions, make lifelong friends, and find a home that always welcomes them back.”

Also serving as campaign co-chairs were Life Trustee Kevin J. McGinty, Class of 1970, and his wife, Nancy C. McGinty.

“The vision of the Campaign Leadership Committee from the very beginning was to lead Ohio Wesleyan into a future that was forward-thinking and bright,” the McGintys said. “With a quarter of the Connect Today, Create Tomorrow gifts and commitments made in support of the endowment — funds invested to create a perpetual source of income — the campaign provides financial security and resources now and in the future. Thank you to everyone who supported this historic achievement.”

Learn more about giving to Ohio Wesleyan at owu.edu/give.

Founded in 1842, Ohio Wesleyan University is one of the nation’s premier liberal arts universities. Located in Delaware, Ohio, the private university offers more than 70 undergraduate majors and competes in 24 NCAA Division III varsity sports. Through its signature program, The OWU Connection, Ohio Wesleyan teaches students to integrate knowledge across disciplines, build a diverse and global perspective, and apply knowledge in real-world settings. Ohio Wesleyan is featured in the book “Colleges That Change Lives” and included on the U.S. News & World Report and Princeton Review “Best Colleges” lists. Learn more at owu.edu.