by Nathaniel Shahan
This coming summer, as current Kenyon students settle into internships, jobs and for some, new lives as recent graduates, Kenyon administrators will lay the groundwork for a capital campaign to ensure the future of the College. A capital campaign represents a focused effort to meet specific fundraising goals set to provide capital for campus construction and renovation, as well as to bolster the College’s endowment and scholarship funds.
The College’s last campaign, “We Are Kenyon,” ran from 2007 to 2011 and raised more than $240 million — $10 million above the original goal. “We Are Kenyon” raised money for the Gund Gallery, which was completed in 2011, as well as Horvitz Hall, which was finished in 2012. The campaign also helped endow several professorships and raised $70 million to be committed to financial aid.
The Board of Trustees is developing a strategic plan outlining the needs of the College and determining the direction the board and President Sean Decatur would like to take. Once this plan is finished and approved, preparations for the campaign can begin.
However, it will still be several years before anyone outside the exclusive circle of trustees and high-level College administrators will hear a campaign title or see a target number. Vice President for College Relations Heidi McCrory, who joined the Kenyon team in July 2014 after working at Sweet Briar College in Virginia, will head the capital campaign.
July will mark the beginning of the “quiet phase.” During this two to three year period, Decatur and members of the board will reach out to key donors. The goals during this phase; the College will determine how much money it can realistically raise, as well as what it will be spent on. Wealthy, reliable donors are among the first contacted. This will also be a time to make changes, according McCrory.
To achieve the goals, new staff will be hired by the Office of College of Relations for assistance researching alumni giving patterns and managing the campaign. Once a dollar goal has been set, the College will attempt to fully raise half of the goal amount by the time the campaign is announced to the public.
When the campaign is announced, at least three-quarters of current Kenyon students will themselves be alumni. The campaign will run for approximately six or seven years as the college attempts to meet its goal. Up to 20 fundraising events a year will be hosted across the country and on campus. “We want our alumni to remember what a special place Kenyon is,” McCrory said.
McCrory is still unsure about what the focus of the campaign will be, but suggested that there could be an emphasis on financial aid. Outgoing Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Jennifer Delahunty, echoed this, saying, “I’m hoping that this next campaign will be very much about scholarships.” Delahunty, who is transitioning into a new role as a West Coast admissions representative for the College, mentioned that she hopes to be involved with the upcoming campaign. Delahunty previously assisted with “We Are Kenyon.” As far as the role of admissions in capital campaigns, Delahunty said, “Admissions is the town crier for scholarships.”
Noting Kenyon’s lack of socioeconomic diversity, Delahunty stated that being able to offer quality financial aid is key, and this is an issue Kenyon struggles with. Javier Leung ’15, suggested that he would be more passionate about giving to the College if he knew his money would be going directly to help students; Leung admitted his bias, given that he himself is a beneficiary of financial aid. Both McCrory and Delahunty mentioned that building renovation would be a partial focus of the new campaign.
McCrory is optimistic about the campaign and hopes it will be bigger than “We Are Kenyon,” but wondered, “How much bigger? We don’t know.” McCrory and Delahunty both expressed hope and acknowledged that Kenyon’s falling acceptance rate and rising national reputation could lead to an increase in donations.
“Our job … is to know what’s in the donor’s’ heart and what [Kenyon] is looking to do, and find the place where those intersect,” explains McCrory. Capital campaigns are important sources of funding for a college and ultimately reflect the will of the alumni. Though McCrory knows few students personally now, she said, “I look forward to knowing you all in the future.” The Kenyon students of today will make the Kenyon of tomorrow a reality.