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Be the Light! fundraising campaign for local college exceeds expectations

Local News

APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – As a way to raise money for their school system, Lawrence University has surpassed its goal and raised $232.6 million in its seven-year Be the Light! campaign.

According to a release, their original goal was $220 million but when they finished they had fundraised almost $12.6 extra.

The final tally was unveiled Thursday night at a virtual We Are the Light! campaign-closing event that drew an audience of Lawrentians from all over the world.

Organizers say it was a significant moment in the 174-year history of the private liberal arts college, and it comes in the midst of a pandemic that has tested the resolve and financial fluidity of colleges and universities across the country.

In addition, organizers say the fundraiser was all about the renewal of existing facilities, strengthening and expanding academic offerings, enhancing the student experience, and providing scholarship resources to lower student debt and open new avenues for all academically qualified students to be able to attend Lawrence.

In 2014, the university says a $25 million matching grant from an anonymous donor (it would later grow to $30 million) jump-started future possibilities.

Set aside for the newly launched Full Speed to Full Need scholarship initiative, university leaders say the grant was matched by donors in less than 16 months, kickstarting the “quiet” phase of the Be the Light! Campaign.

More than $91 million was raised for Full Speed to Full Need, providing endowed scholarships that help bridge the difference between a student’s financial aid and their demonstrated need.

Organizers say the Full Speed to Full Need contributions has led to a decrease in the average student debt for graduating seniors, dropping from a high of $34,573 in 2016 to last year’s $29,118.

The campaign drew another $31 million to support the college’s day-to-day operations through the Lawrence Fund.

Nearly $26 million was raised for campus renewal, including renovations to Kohler Hall, Lawrence Memorial Chapel, Warch Campus Center, Ormsby Hall, Mudd Library, Brokaw Hall, Banta Bowl, and Alexander Gymnasium, among others.

Classrooms are being upgraded in Youngchild and Briggs halls, landscaping was or will be replaced in multiple spaces across campus, and the Net-Zero Bjorklunden Initiative has been launched, which will eliminate the generation of greenhouse gases from the Door County campus.

The campaign also has delivered five new endowed professorships, strengthening academic disciplines across campus.

An investment of $5 million has revamped and invigorated the Career Center, a major push following a 2018 Life After Lawrence study.

Campaign contributions came from more than 16,000 donors, including nearly 9,000 alumni.

“Just so much gratitude,” President Mark Burstein said. “This is what it means to strengthen an institution; it strengthens it for the challenges that come.”

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