WKU fundraising tops $202 million


WKU has 202,305,534 reasons to celebrate — enough to make President Gary Ransdell start rapping.

The New Century of Spirit capital campaign revealed a $202 million grand total at Friday night’s President’s Gala.

“How about 202 million times ‘thank you’?” Ransdell said.

The “victory celebration,” held at the Carroll Knicely Conference Center, honored donors throughout the campaign with a black-tie affair modeled after an old Hollywood awards ceremony.

Nearly 450 guests, ranging from the Board of Regents members, donors and other WKU administrators, arrived early for cocktails and the “red carpet” treatment, which included pictures with an imitation Oscar statue.

The “showtime” portion of the event included entertainment from WKU Theater and Dance students performing numbers from classic musicals.

Ransdell formally welcomed guests during the performance, making his grand entrance at the end of a musical number.

“I have about 200 million things to say, but I’ll keep it short,” Ransdell said, with a laugh.

Kathryn Costello, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, followed Ransdell, making a unique entrance as a heroine in an “Indiana Jones” skit — taking out a “bad guy” with a parasol while the Jones music played.

Costello acknowledged donors of at least $100,000, and presented each in attendance with a plaque.

“It’s such a privilege to have all of you here tonight to celebrate such a milestone of a historic campaign, something that will never feel any better than it does tonight,” Costello said.

A rap music video followed the recognition. The video, starring Louisville junior Marrquon Bartee, included university administrators, such as Ransdell and Provost Gordon Emslie, dancing and even rapping.

“You’re making dreams come true,” Bartee said in the video. “Hilltopper of the century goes out to you.”

The final number was revealed shortly after the music video. The crowd stood to its feet and applauded as the count rolled past $201 million, past the $202 million mark, finishing out at $202,305,534.

To celebrate, Ransdell invited everyone to “dinner and dancing under the stars,” with food catered by Aramark, and music provide by jazz band the Pat Patrick Band.

Student Government Association president Cory Dodds said the gala was “terrific,” and the celebration wasn’t just for the campaign donors.

“The money raised will enable WKU to continue pursuing the things that are vital for the student body: scholarship funds, endowed professorships, capital projects, and practical opportunities,” Dodds said after the event.

The money raised over the course of the campaign has gone to fund various projects, such as the Augenstein Alumni Center and Chandler Memorial Chapel, and $54 million for student financial aid, according to documents Costello provided.