College students, generally speaking, are not known for having lots of disposable income. That makes the enthusiasm and generosity shown by the Class of 2017 that much more impressive. A greater percentage of seniors chose to give back to Ohio Wesleyan with their Senior Class Gift than any class in almost a decade — 72 percent.
The group effort was the result of creative challenges and the work of the 2017 Senior Class Council, including Lee LeBoeuf ’17, senior class president. LeBoeuf admits that her competitive nature helped fuel her efforts to make her class giving stand out.
“Everybody on Senior Class Council talked to their friends, their fraternities and sororities,” she says. “If you’re talking to someone one-on-one and explain to them where the money goes, most people are willing to give a few bucks.”
The Senior Class Gift was established in 1967 as a way to bring graduating seniors into the longstanding tradition of charitable alumni support by the Ohio Wesleyan community, dating back to the tradition of philanthropy established by the Rev. Adam Poe when the University was founded.
The funds support the Ohio Wesleyan Fund, unrestricted dollars that make up 10 percent of the school’s annual operating budget. They help pay for everything from landscaping and dorm maintenance to scholarships and faculty professional development.
“So many people are on scholarships, and those funds wouldn’t exist if it wasn’t for alumni giving back,” says LeBoeuf, herself a scholarship recipient.
Alumni giving is a factor in college rankings, making encouraging a habit of participation — not gift size — a key component.
The council was originally aiming for 55 percent participation from a senior class of 383 students, and came up with a clever marketing idea: Senior Night at the Backstretch bar. “Those who gave $5 or more got two drink tickets, so that was a pretty big draw, as you might imagine,” LeBoeuf says.
To encourage seniors to come out, the council arranged to have President Rock Jones attend to announce that the commencement speaker would be Venezuelan businessman Andres Duarte ’65. It was Jones’ first time in the Backstretch (really). “We also got him to climb up on the bar,” LeBoeuf says.
Jones also offered dinner at his house to anyone who made a gift, and with seniors starting to run out of food points at the end of the year, that provided additional motivation. In the end, almost a quarter of the class, 90 students, attended the dinner at Pritchard House.
Wanting to encourage a little friendly competition, Raeceen Daugherty, who works with the class through the Office of Annual Giving, suggested going head-to-head with rival Denison. Her counterparts at the school in Granville were game, and the “Cash Before the Clash” was on, with the winner announced during “Denison Day,” when the lacrosse teams play. OWU won the challenge handily and took home the trophy until next year, when it will be up for grabs by the Class of 2018.
“I was blown away by the response from the Class of 2017,” says Colleen Garland, vice president of university advancement.
“Lee LeBoeuf and the Senior Class Council provided great leadership, creativity, and enthusiasm. Importantly, they also beat Denison. This bodes well for the future as these graduates become loyal alumni,” Garland says.