Western sets $90 million capital campaign goal

Mai Hoang

During the last week of spring classes in May, Tom Hiles was a busy man.

Western’s vice president for Institutional Advancement spent time preparing for the annual President’s Circle Gala and writing press releases about “Investing in the Spirit,” Western’s $78 million capital campaign.

It was unclear at that time exactly what those press releases would say or what type of announcement President Gary Ransdell would make at the May 10 gala concerning the university’s campaign.

At the time, Hiles and his staff were about $1 million away from reaching the campaign’s goal. So, that week, campaign volunteers and Hiles worked quickly to close the deal on a donation that would help Western meet its goal more than a year earlier than planned.

The hard work paid off, he said.

On the morning of May 10, in the middle of a Board of Regents meeting, Hiles received a phone call from an anonymous corporate donor.

Minutes later, Hiles made his way back to the meeting, looked at Ransdell and gave him the thumbs-up. The deal was closed – $78 million reached.

No big celebrations followed the thumbs-up at the meeting. The celebrating was saved for that night, Ransdell said.

“I think it wasn’t much more than a nod and a wink,” Ransdell said. “Just an acknowledgement of a good job across the room.”

That night, Ransdell announced to members of the President’s Circle, an elite group of donors to the university, that Western had reached its goal with a capstone $1.7 million donation.

“It was a little scary,” Hiles said. “But at the same time, I think everybody felt satisfied that we were able to piece this together and reach our goal 14 months early.

“I told (the donor) that we were very close going to the top of the campaign and that this gift was our capstone gift. We had a lot at stake psychologically and from a momentum standpoint to get this done, and I told them all these things.”

Prior to the campaign announcement in May, Hiles and Western’s campaign cabinet voted to increase the capital campaign goal by $12 million. Now, Hiles and his staff are focusing on raising a remaining $10 million to reach the new $90 million goal by the campaign’s June 30 end date.

Hiles said he and his staff chose to increase the campaign goal because more money is still needed for student scholarships and professorships.

Hiles said he is confident Western can meet the $90 million figure, but he and his staff face some challenges.

The stock market is ailing, causing many donors to put their prospective gifts on hold, and the state is running without a budget, which prevents Western from receiving any matching funds on donations it receives.

“I hope we don’t have to scramble like the last time to get to $90 million, but it’s possible,” Hiles said. “. I’ll go out on a limb and say we’ll get to 90 one way or another.”

BEGINITAL Mai Hoang can be reached at [email protected] ENDITAL