Nine million marks best year yet

Chancellor James Schmidt said 30 years ago almost 80 percent of public university finances were paid for by the state.  Now, he said the state only gives out 20 percent, and the students are picking up the rest.
With that said, those public universities, UW-Eau Claire included, have needed to find other ways to fund a university with a growing amount of students.  The UW-Eau Claire Foundation has answered the call.
The Foundation received more than $9 million in fundraising ­— the largest annual amount received in Foundation history — during the 2012-2013 fiscal year.
“The private dollars and the work the Foundation does is increasingly more important,” Foundation President Kimera Way said. “We know we aren’t going to get significant more dollars from the state, so private dollars have unlimited potential and opportunity.”
Schmidt said he is thrilled to come to a campus where such efforts are implemented.
“Eau Claire is really considered to be ahead of most of the other universities in terms of number of years, experience and relative success they’ve had,” Schmidt said.  “Where philanthropy really comes into play is creating that margin of excellence.”
Way and The Foundation have used different resources to put philanthropy in the playing field.  Last school year, The Foundation announced the start of the Power of Possible Centennial Campaign, celebrating 100 years of the university in 2016.
The effort was launched last year with a centralizing theme of getting alumni to think about what the university has meant to them and how it has shaped their lives, Way said.
“The announcement of that campaign generated what we called a controlled sense of urgency about investing in the people and the programs here,” Way said.
Eau Claire received two generous donations, one from the trust dedicated to now deceased Lt. George L. Simpson worth a total of $4.3 million and a gift from James and Anne Ramsey’s estate worth $1.5 million. Ramsey’s gift also included the Foundation’s possibility for implementing the first permanently endowed faculty chair in the school’s College of Arts and Sciences.
The Foundation has four major officers whose main goal is to get alumni involved in what is happening presently at the university. Way said a lot of the money goes to the Blugold Promise Scholarship Program, giving monetary aid to students in financial need.
One such recipient of that scholarship is sophomore Jordan Niles of Appleton.  He said the contributions from former Blugolds is astronomically helpful.
“I cannot even begin to say how important support from private donors is,” Niles said. “Without their generous contributions, students who cannot afford to go to college, including myself, can get a chance to get the education they need to get ahead in life.”
Schmidt said he hopes the students receiving aid can have a pay it forward mentality. Niles proved Schmidt’s words to be right.
“After seeing how much these scholarships have helped me pay for college, I would definitely consider giving back to the campus after graduation,” Niles said. “These scholarships are something that give students the chance they need: the chance to prove themselves.”
Schmidt said being at a university as high caliber as Eau Claire’s makes the sales pitch a little bit easier.
“I talk to companies, foundations and private donors and say we have an amazing school,” Schmidt said. “We have amazing students who will contribute to society … We will continue to build so that when they see that Blugold degree on your resume, employers will associate that with that margin of excellence.”