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The Wow Factor
The success of the just-ended Leadership Campaign is a great story in and of itself. All the donors who opened their hearts and wallets. All the dollars raised. But how this money helps real people?
Now, thatís a truly inspiring account.
I have a confession to make. One night in January, the phone rang at my house. When I checked the caller ID, my spirits fell.
It was my alma mater, back in Ohio. I knew what they wanted.
You've gotten those calls, too — from Northeastern. You've heard the buoyant voice on the other end of the line talking about the progress the university has made, thanking you for your past gift, asking if you can give again. And you've thought, Should I say I have something burning in the oven?
For me, however, that night was different. Because I suddenly remembered what I'd been hearing at work about Northeastern-about the large and small victories that have been won with Leadership Campaign donations.
About the young woman who got a full-tuition scholarship, for instance, which led to a computer science degree. Today, she's working on her PhD, hoping one day to create the kind of technology that people don't just use because they have to, but because they love to.
The couple who, to memorialize their son, established a fund that brings literary lights to campus. The alum who helped a student get an education, a co-op job, and a career.
And the jump-start funding that created a new school that teaches students how to launch and manage cutting-edge companies.
The stories I'd been hearing had touched some emotion in me. And so, to the well-meaning voice on the line, I said, "Sure, I'll give."
Northeastern has hundreds of compelling examples of how contributions to the recently completed Leadership Campaign are helping the university's students, scholars, and schools surge forward. Almost all began with a phone call and a request.
Since 1998, the campaign has raised more than $203 million from more than 63,900 alumni, friends, corporations, and foundations. Some contributions were substantial gifts that have already led to big changes on campus.
The Behrakis Health Sciences Center owes its existence to an $8 million donation from George D. Behrakis, P'57, H'98, and his wife, Margo.
Shillman Hall, a classroom building, was named following a $3 million gift from Robert Shillman, E'68, H'00, and his wife, Mao.
There have been other large donations as well — from George Kostas, E'43, and his wife, Angelina, which helped fund the Kostas Nanoscale Technology and Manufacturing Research Center.
From Irving Levine, E'57, and his wife, Lenore, which named the Levine Marketplace, a restaurant-style dining area in Stetson East.
From Francis Gicca, E'59, and his wife, Joan, which named the atrium in the new College of Computer and Information Science building.
And from Morton Ruderman, E'59, and his wife, Marcia, which greatly enhanced the Jewish studies program.
But thousands of small gifts made a difference, too. In fact, the university surpassed its $200 million goal on the shoulders of a large variety of gifts.
"This was a real university-wide collective effort," says senior vice president for institutional advancement Robert Cunningham, "with more gifts at all levels helping us reach the goal."
The combined force of all these contributions, the very large to the very small, creates a lasting impact on Northeastern, Cunningham adds.
"Whether it's been through the annual fund or other types of giving opportunities," he says, "the campaign gave alumni a chance to engage with Northeastern in a very meaningful way. It has really helped create connections among alumni, students, and faculty."
According to Cunningham, it's clear alumni care deeply about providing for student support and financial aid.
President Freeland agrees. "The single most compelling reason that motivates many donors," he says, "is a desire to make sure that the next generation has the opportunity to attend Northeastern in the same way that our successful graduates have."
Ronald Rossetti, BA'66, the Leadership Campaign chair and one of several trustees to make a $1 million donation to help kick off the fundraising effort, echoes Cunningham and Freeland.
"We are keeping our promise to our students to provide the best educational experience possible," he says.
In the wake of the campaign, promises made can be promises kept. And individual contributions, including those that by themselves might not pack a lot of punch, provide building blocks for a dynamic big picture, one that can change people's lives.
Call it the wow factor.
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