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Class of 2010 reveals gift

Seniors to fundraise for first-ever class gift of scholarship endowment

By Eliza Hartley

Managing Editor

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Published: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Updated: Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Senior Gift Committee announced at the 99 Nights party last Saturday evening that the Class of 2010’s gift will be an endowment fund used to supplement scholarships in the name of 2010. The announcement was met with rousing support.

“We literally brought three bags of giving envelopes back to campus last night from the Alumnae House,” said co-Chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee and Vassar Student Association (VSA) Vice President for Operations Brian Farkas ’10. “More than 300 seniors attended the event, and I have heard so much positive feedback about the gift. People are so enthusiastic to support this important cause,” he added.

99 Nights is traditionally held 99 days before the end of the academic year and will be again this year. According to Selina Strasburger ’10, however, this year an event was added 99 nights into the academic year to mark the end of the first semester and help seniors to look forward to their future as alumnae/i of the College. “This gift is so significant and important that it was important for the event at which it was announced to be on the same level,” said Strasburger. The Class Council hopes that future classes will maintain this tradition.

The Class of 2010 hopes to raise $15,000, more than any class’s gift to date, to be invested in an endowment fund. The gift will be the first endowment fund set up by a class and required special permission from the Vassar Development Office because in comparison to other endowed funds, this will be a very small sum. Usually, a minimum of $250,000 is required to endow a fund in order to ensure that the returns on the endowment are sustainable and substantial enough to make a difference. They were granted permission to set up the endowment because the members of the Class of 2010 plan to continue donating to it as alumnae/i, eventually reaching the $250,000 mark.

They hope that the money earned by this fund will be used to supplement the scholarships of various students on financial aid. As stated in the Gift Committee’s pamphlet titled “Expanding Access: The 2010 Senior Gift,” which describes the purpose and significance of the gift, “While directing our class gift toward the expendable financial aid fund would support only the 2010-2011 academic year, our 2010 Endowment Scholarship Fund will literally support Vassar’s educational accessibility forever.”

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid David Borus wrote in an e-mailed statement, “The Class of 2010’s decision to devote their class gift to financial aid is a wonderful and meaningful effort.” The class hopes to create ongoing support through the fund for the education of those deserving to go to Vassar—as the pamphlet states, “any exceptional mind should have access to a Vassar education.”

Despite the present financial situation, Vassar has demonstrated a fervent commitment to maintaining need-blind admissions over the past three years, even with increasing numbers of students demonstrating need: from 45.8 percent of the Class of 2010, to 60 percent of the Class of 2013. “As the recession has impacted the financial well-being of the families of our students, many students have found that their demonstrated need has increased, and the College has allotted additional funds to meet that need for all of our students who need additional help,” wrote Borus. The Class of 2010 gives their gift in support of this commitment.

“I think that given the current economic climate, the status of the budget at Vassar in particular, as well as the recent transition to need-blind admission, calls for a gift like this,” said Gift Committee member Vendela Fehrm ’10 in an e-mailed statement.

“We will not only be helping the College maintain their goals, but we’re also helping current and future students. We will leave a mark that’s responsible, equitable and which contributes to aiding Vassar and hopefully also its reputation of being a school with great financial aid,” she continued.

The Committee started the process of determining their gift in September with a survey to the class. Of the 350 responses they received, an overwhelming majority had to do with financial aid and increasing access to a Vassar education, according to Farkas. Because the money raised will be invested with the rest of that which is allocated to financial aid annually, the funds will be distributed among various scholarships each year rather than lumped together in a single, annual scholarship.

The Committee has been working with the Senior Class Council to drum up enthusiasm for the gift. They have also been working with the Development Office, which is responsible for managing the College’s gifts. An element of the project that the Committee is particularly excited about is a website that tracks the class’s progress toward their $15,000 goal, according to co-Gift Committee Chair Rachel Gilmer ’10. Farkas added that the site is updated every weekday morning at 3 a.m. “We hope that seeing our progress toward our goal will energize people to give,” he said. “The Matt-o-Meter, as we are affectionately calling our online giving thermometer, shows students how their gift is crucial to achieving our larger goal.” The Matt-o-Meter takes its name from Vassar’s founder Matthew Vassar.

Gilmer said, “A lot of gifts in the past affect people who seek them out to use. This affects everyone. Everyone is touched by financial aid, whether you know someone on it, or you are [on it] yourself.”

“It’s a good idea considering how expensive college is, the current economy and everything,” Jennifer Richards ’10 said. “I like how it’s not just a one-time thing. It’s really cool that it’s not going to have to be replaced [like card-swipes and bikes]. It’s for education and that’s why we’re here.”

“I’m really proud of it,” said Strasburger. “It’s more than a one-time gift,” she added, joking, “It’s a gift that keeps on giving.”

The Committee has raised more than $4,300 as of Dec. 8, including that which was donated Saturday. To find out more about the Gift and how you can contribute, go to development.vassar.edu/seniorgift.

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