By Sara Torres Staff Writer
On Saturday, April 25, Quimby’s Prairie was sprinkled with approximately 1,000 enthusiastic students, faculty, staff and alumni anticipating President Gitenstein’s much awaited announcement — the College is launching a historical campaign. It will ensure the exemplar education the College has provided for more than 160 years continues to be accessible for many more years to come.
The Campaign for TCNJ, subtitled “Innovate, Inspire, Engage,” is the College’s first-ever comprehensive fundraising effort, with the goal of raising at least $40 million by June 2017.
“TCNJ has always had the clarity to recognize when we stand at a crossroads and the boldness to embrace new strategies when that crossroads requires it,” Gitenstein said to the crowd. “Because of the stagnating economy and declining state support, there are financial pressures on our students and their families and on the college. That makes this a challenging moment in the history of TCNJ.”
The campaign began quietly about two years ago, led by President R. Barbara Gitenstein, the Board of Trustees and Vice President for Advancement John Donahue.
“But challenge has never frightened the College,” Gitenstein continued. “We have always met challenges with courage, marshalling the forces necessary not just to endure, but to prevail.”
In total, the campaign has already raised $24,890,515.
“If you’re a president, you always round up,” Gitenstein said. “So $25 million.”
In terms of both the number of individuals willing to lend their time to ensure the campaign’s success, as well as those who have come forward with donations, the president says the response has been extraordinary.
“I have no doubt that with the leadership of our volunteers and the support of our community, that this campaign, the first in the history of our college, will be a resounding success,” she said.
Gitenstein introduced two co-chairs of the campaign to the audience, Barbara Meyers Pelson, a member of the class of 1959, and Allen Silk, a long-time volunteer and supporter of the College. Former New Jersey Governors Brendan Byrne, Thomas Kean, Christine Todd Whitman, as well as Jim Florio, a member of the class of ’62 and a member of the honorary leadership for the campaign, were also in attendance during the celebration.
According to the College’s spokesman Dave Muha, Gitenstein spoke of an array of awards that are ready to be publicly announced, but these only represent a portion of the overall $25 million already granted through the campaign.
“There are a lot of other gifts that are going to have impact as well,” Muha said. “We’ve been talking to people who share the vision of what we’re trying to achieve, and are willing to make a gift in support in the campaign.”
The College’s main strategy has been the website, campaign.tcnj.edu, as well as several publications the College has published, including a case statement which brings to life the campaign’s four main priorities: student support, academic enrichment, the student experience and capital improvement. According to Muha, an event on Tuesday, Dec. 2, of last year invited campus leadership to meet with the president and board members in order to discuss what these priorities should be, and these have been brought to fruition.
The statement also features those who volunteered and agreed to be ambassadors for the campaign’s 10 committees — one for each of the seven schools, the library, student affairs and athletics. These volunteers will be working with the deans and vice presidents of these departments in order to identify and carry out the campaign’s goals moving forward.
According to Muha, there is still a lot of effort to be made to engage others in the goals of the campaign.
“It’s really going to be a people effort,” Donahue said. “It’s not about a website, or a launch, or a publication. It’s about that person to person interaction, and sharing what the College is doing, asking for help and making those connections.”
As state funding has been declining for years, it seems the campaign could not have come at a more pivotal point in the College’s history, especially in light of Gov. Christie’s proposed budget cuts, which could cut $2 million to operational funds if it is passed.
Muha said the campaign was not a direct reaction to this year’s cuts, nor is it in anticipation of budget cuts, but rather a “recognition of a desire to continue to build on the excellence that the college has achieved, knowing that we needed additional support beyond our traditional sources of funding.”
The success the campaign has already achieved makes this a very exciting time for everyone involved with the College, some have said.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm for everything the College has been able to do throughout the years, and it’s very heartening,” Muha said. “It’s an indication that this campaign is going to be a great success.”