A Palpable Sense of Momentum

Quietly, because May 31 fell on a Sunday this year, Campaign St. Norbert: Full Ahead came to a close. Just the week before, the De Pere abbey of the Order of Canons Regular of Prémontré (the Norbertines!) had pledged to the college their priory (their original abbey), valued at $5 million.

While I’ve been a stickler for using the full name of the campaign, I’ll refer to it here as “Full Ahead” – because that’s exactly how the campaign moved the college forward; that’s precisely what it meant for the institution. It began at an inauspicious time for fundraising, when we were at the low point of the Great Recession and our endowment fund was profoundly reduced. Full Ahead signaled our confidence that 20,000 alumni and 10,000 friends would be willing to band together to meet the challenges then facing St. Norbert. 

We had some serious hurdles to jump: We needed to update facilities like JMS, Sensenbrenner Union (especially the Caf!), the former St. John’s Church. Big questions were posed: How could we keep improving signature programs like our Peace & Justice Center and our Center for Community Service & Learning? 

Full Ahead, in company with our generous alumni and friends, brought new endowments for the Schneider School of Business & Economics, the Sturzl Center and the Miller Center; it built Michels Commons, the Cassandra Voss Center, Dudley Birder Hall and the Gehl-Mulva Science Center. Full Ahead’s success proved that your college was worthy of your philanthropic passions. The “idea” of the only Norbertine college in the world contained within it the power to move forward at a speed and momentum worthy of the phrase “Full Ahead.”

Many great stories make up the narrative of the campaign. There was Dee Geurts-Bengtson’s call on behalf of the St. Norbert Fund to Dr. Mark Stinski, the world-class researcher in virology – he shared his interest in helping a new science building get started. Dr. Stinski gave St. Norbert the funds needed to begin work on the architectural plans for the Gehl-Mulva Science Center. Then there was the late Dave Brandel, a 1964 alum and a generous annual donor at the President’s Club level for more than 20 years, who left an estate gift that provided $500,000 for two endowed scholarships and more than $700,000 to help renovate our baseball and softball complex. There was the Class of 2010, which participated in our first Senior Pledge in the knowledge that they stood in the continuum of alumni – those before them and those who would come after – who were giving back to their alma mater. They undertook to begin their own giving, even as they were just starting out in their careers. There were more than 5,800 stories from this past year alone – including many from our All Hands On Deck Day in April – because that’s how many donors there were in our final year of the campaign. 

For me, Campaign St. Norbert: Full Ahead was a wonderfully rich experience – the most fulfilling in my 25 years in higher-ed advancement. I was fortunate to work with great volunteers (too many to single out); generous donors (way too many to single out); and a great faculty and staff. From start to finish, there has been, for me, a palpable sense of momentum. Success has been built on the shoulders of those who came before us, but it has also been built on itself. We were at 60 percent of our goal even before we publicly announced the campaign!

The pace never waned. I’m someone who counts his blessings, sometimes aloud. In Full Ahead, I’ve had the blessing of partnering with President Tom Kunkel. His communication skills are legendary: His personal openness and his willingness to go the extra mile have been keys to our success. Our ease with one another, always knowing we were on the same page, made us a very good team. And speaking of teams, my colleagues in College Advancement are the very best people I could work with. We saw the campaign’s challenge and we put our noses to the grindstone. 

Well, we did it! We can say with confidence that we all (students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends) moved St. Norbert College … Full Ahead.

Oct. 31, 2015