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Building for the Future

Anonymous gift will be a catalyst for change on campus

Recital Hall

(Recital Hall rendering. Provided by Schwerdt Design Group)

From Bell Tower - 2021
By Brad Porter

This past July, Washburn University announced it had received the single largest gift in the university’s history: an incredible $10.2 million commitment from anonymous donors. The gift, which will go toward several capital projects and scholarships, was appropriately heralded as transformative. 

“This gift will leave an indelible mark on our campus for generations to come,” said Washburn University President Jerry Farley. “We are thankful for the donors’ shared vision, extensive generosity and commitment to this university.” 

“The donors wanted to celebrate all Washburn University has accomplished and set the stage for continued improvements on campus and support for students,” said Marshall Meek, mba ’17, president, Washburn University Alumni Association and Foundation. “Their generosity will provide monumental changes on our campus in the coming years and greatly support our students.” 

The gift is a testament to the impact that private gifts can have on the long-term vitality of the University. Meek said the donors were forward-looking and interested in jumpstarting projects that may not otherwise be possible in the near future.

“At any given time, Washburn University has a wish list of things we’d like to accomplish, projects that are being discussed or emerging needs that have been identified,” explained Meek. “But of course, with limited resources, we can’t do everything on the list. Sometimes donors can step in and be the catalyst that moves a project off the university’s wish list and into existence.” 

One example is the much-discussed idea of creating a new recital hall just north of White Concert Hall along 17th street. Washburn has long had a desire to meet the substantial and ever-growing demand for performance space on campus, and the University had been considering plans for a smaller, more intimate space for musicians and audiences alike, with state-of-the-art technology for sound quality, recording and livestreams. A commitment of $2.5 million for the project was included in the $10.2 million gift, effectively jumpstarting the fundraising effort and moving the project ever closer to its $5.25 million fundraising goal.

The gift also focused on several future projects that will be launched in the years to come. 

“The donors were very thoughtful about several projects the University has been considering to improve campus. They were able to sort through the list and focus their giving on areas that were the most meaningful to them,” Meek explained. “Their support will be difference-making in a number of capital projects over the next decade that might not have been possible otherwise.”  

Farley agreed. In addition to calling out the scholarships this gift will provide, he extolled that giving the University the extra boost needed to tackle future projects will make the campus and University a more desirable place and provide great learning experiences for students. 

“There is nothing better than being able to say ‘yes,’” said Farley. “And that’s exactly what this gift will do. As we look to the future of Washburn’s campus five, 10, 20 years down the line, where we might have wondered ‘would this be possible?’, these donors have given us the ability to answer ‘yes, we can do this.’”

“This is the kind of gift that will reverberate through time,” Farley added.

Meek mentioned how far donations like this can go at Washburn – major gifts aren’t just a drop in the bucket as they may be at larger universities or national nonprofits. Instead, they have the power to be truly transformative. They also have the power to inspire others, another byproduct of this gift that Meek noted may carry over for years. 

“We believe we have many alumni and friends who will be inspired by the improvements taking place and projects being launched and will want to join in the efforts and make their own contributions. Generosity begets generosity. All of Washburn’s donors deserve a ton of credit for the impact they have on our students and on our entire campus community, for coming together to make a difference as new opportunities arise. We are excited to see that momentum continue to build.”

“The impact of this gift will be felt for generations to come,” added Meek. “We are forever grateful for this commitment, and also feel it is appropriate to say congratulations, because these donors have really accomplished something great 
for Washburn."

Ichabod Bench

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