Campaign for Fresno State breaks goal

campaigntotal_RGBAfter seven years of fundraising, officials with the Campaign for Fresno State announced Saturday in a news conference a roof-breaking achievement of raising more than $214 million.

Students came into the Bulldog Foundation Community Room one by one, holding colorful balloons and a single numbered card. Slowly, they stood in a single line, revealing the final fundraised amount: $214,222,190. The goal set in 2005 was $200 million.

This is recognized as even a greater achievement because it was the first ever comprehensive fundraising campaign.

“There are no corners of this campus that this campaign does not touch,” R. Kent Clark said. He is associate vice president for development at Fresno State R. Kent Clark in his opening speech. The money goes to Fresno State’s scholarships, faculty, programs and facilities.

“This funding provides life changing support to our students every year,” he said. “Our donors, staff and volunteers are critical to this campaign’s success.”

Others who also gave speeches in appreciation were Fresno State President John D. Welty, Vice President for University Advancement Peter Smits and alumni co-chairs Omel Nieves and Dennis Woods.

Welty said he was thankful more than 34,000 donors who helped the campaign top its goal. Welty said in his speech that people invested in the university because they know the importance for Fresno State to strengthen its “academic program, to build our facilities and to generate support for student scholarships and faculties, going into the future.”

Welty said this isn’t the only campaign Fresno State will hold, but as the first one, the efforts and achievements paved a way for the future.

“There will be the need for future campaigns to generate the support for the university in order for us to continue to build programs of national distinctions – programs that will support our students who are looking forward to taking advantage of that opportunity for a higher education,” he said.

Smit said the fundraising team learned many lessons along the way. He felt team members had accomplished a goal that was far greater than just numbers.

“We also learned a lot of creating a culture of philanthropy here at Fresno State,” he said. “In fact, in 2005, we did not know what that meant, but today we do. We know that our volunteers, our deans, our faculty work together to do something for the common good.”

As volunteer co-chairs Nieves and Woods represented the public in relationship to the university. They served as the advocates in the community that carry forward the campaign’s initiatives, projects and goals.

Nieves and Woods were glad they were able to volunteer. Their predecessors were community leaders Jan and Bud Ritcher.

Nieves said he was honored to be able to give back to Fresno State after all he had received when he was student.

After the news conference, Clark said the last two years with the campaign have proved intersting. Although the Central Valley is still struggling in a tough economy, Clark said he was “blown away by the generosity of people who want to provide for scholarships for students, who want to provide infrastructures for the university.”

Fresno State’s students, however, are the ones who motivated the campaign team and were the best advocates. Donors who sat down with these students saw their potential and were excited to see where these students were going and what would become of them.

“There’s nothing that gets me more excited about my work than that, and believe that I’m making a difference in making that better,” Clark said.

Clark wants Fresno State’s students to know that the success of the campaign is a “large testament” of the community believing in their future. Individual, corporations and organizations voluntarily donated their money because “donors believe in our students and want them to succeed,” he said.

Although Clark said he understands that students are struggling with increasing tuition fees, the fees would be much higher without the donations. He urges them to also give back to the university after they graduate.

“I’d like our students to know, in the future for Fresno State to be a university we want it to be, we need them,” he said. “We need them to be a part of this growing Bulldog network. I hope our students realize that we’re not done raising money. We want them to get out and get great jobs and be great successes so we can talk to them the next time we need to raise money.”