Two largest fundraising campaigns occur during Ransdell’s presidency

Jackson French

WKU’s most recent fundraising campaign has raised more money than any other campaign in the school’s history.

Donald Smith, president of the College Heights Foundation, said the most recent campaign, “A New Century of Spirit,” ran from 2005 to 2012 to coincide with WKU’s bicentennial in 2006, and raised $202 million.

John Paul Blair, associate vice president of Development, said the last two campaigns, both conducted during President Gary Ransdell’s presidency, have each yielded more gifts from donors than any previous WKU fundraising campaign.

“It’s grown exponentially, each campaign, and this most recent one had over 42,000 donors,” Blair said.

Kathryn Costello, president of the WKU Foundation, said the previous campaign, which ran from 1998 to 2003, raised $102 million.

“One of the purposes of a campaign is to get a lot of energy and excitement about the institution and that tends to bring more people on as donors,” Costello said.

She also said 42,000 donors in a single campaign would have been unheard of 20 years ago.

“Our alumni base continues to keep growing, so there are more individuals who are passionate about the university each year to be able to support the institution,” Smith said. “Just by sheer numbers, the more individuals that you have, the more capacity that is created in private support.”

Smith said Ransdell’s involvement in these campaigns has been an important reason for their recent success.

“I would say until Gary got here as president, there never had been a president who’s had real dedication to an interest in campaigns,” Costello said.

Costello said Ransdell’s vision for WKU, from the outset of his presidency, has been to make WKU “a leading American University with international reach.”

“He knew that two things were important to success of a university: one is having a beautiful campus,” Costello said. “The other is having private support because public universities really cannot do the extra things without private support, so I would say he was the driver of all the success.”

Smith said Ransdell played a part in getting donations.

“He is certainly instrumental in meeting with alumni and friends and donors throughout the country to describe that vision in person,” Smith said.

Smith said WKU had never received a million dollar gift before Ransdell became president in 1997, but during his presidency, has had more than 50 gifts of $1million or more.

Costello said money from donations has been used to fund the construction of numerous school buildings, including Houchens-Smith Stadium, the Adams-Whitaker Student Publications Building, the Chandler Memorial Chapel and the soon-to-open Augenstein Alumni Center.

She also said many donations were given to certain schools within the university, adding that some graduates with careers in certain fields will fund programs they have a lot of interest in.

Costello said WKU is currently undertaking a small campaign to raise money for scholarships, but said she thinks Ransdell will launch another large campaign while he is president.

“I expect toward the end of his time here, he will want to do one final campaign and we don’t know yet what the focus of that will be,” Costello said.