Saint Augustine’s University’s donations have grown steadily over the past few years and administrators hope to do even better in 2017-18, the university’s 150th anniversary. The fund-raising efforts already have led to major improvements at the university, according to Dr. Steven Hairston, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and Chief Operating Officer.
“Along with the university’s year-long celebration of being founded, the university has also celebrated a year of fund-raising and gift giving to the university,” Dr. Hairston explained.
In an interview with The Falcon Forum, Dr. Hairston explained how funds have grown and how the efforts have helped the university and will continue to help the university.
SAU’s cash donations totaled $2,075,709.66 in 2016-17, well above the $1.5 million goal and a big jump over the $1.4 million raised in 2015-16. Donations have more than doubled since 2014-15, the year Dr. Everett Ward became president. In that year, SAU’s cash donations were approximately $815,000, according to Dr. Hairston.
The goal for the 2017-18 academic year is $4 million, he said.
Decisions have yet to be made on how the money would be spent if SAU reaches the $4 million goal, Dr. Hairston said. But he added: “It gives you the opportunity to have options that you wouldn’t have if that money wasn’t on the table.”
One of those options might be completion of the George Williams Athletic Complex, Dr. Hairston said. But he said that would be only one option and there would be other needs competing for the money.
The fund-raising already is resulting in major improvements, Dr. Hairston said. The $2 million SAU raised last year is being used for a number of improvements including renovations to two main campus dormitories – Weston Hall, the dorm for women, and Latham Hall the men’s dorm. The updates include 10 modernized and upgraded bathrooms in Weston Hall including fixture and showers. Dormitories kitchenettes have also been upgraded. Dr. Hairston said.
“Our goal is to create a nice environment for our students. Our goal this year is to continue those fundraising efforts. …We want to complete that project in Weston Hall then move to Latham Hall to do the same thing for the men,” he said.
“In Latham Hall, for example, we want to clean out the former furniture so that we can replace it with new furniture built for dormitories. The furniture will be comfortable for students to sit on and durable to last for a long time.”
A lot of work has begun but had not been completed, Dr. Hairston said. For example furniture ordered in the late summer has to be installed. A lot of the new furniture for the dormitories is custom made for the space at SAU, he explained.
Elevators for Weston are also scheduled for upgrades. “Weston Hall is one of our dorms built in the late 80’s or early 90’s when the construction was completed. We are still dealing with the same elevators in that building and we have an elevator modernization project. We are having two new elevators installed,” he said.
Including funds from the government, private foundations, and contracts, SAU received a little over $5 million last year, Dr. Hairston said. He said the $2 million in donations was the most since he began in 2014 but was not sure if it was a record.
The fundraising is not directly related to Saint Augustine’s probationary status with SACS because, although it improves the university’s bottom line, SACS complaints with SAU finances were not simply about the amount of money the university has on hand, Hairston said.
University president, Dr. Everett B. Ward, has made financial stability a high priority since his appointment in 2014. He stated, “It is through a strategic effort, the generosity of alumni, the Episcopal Church and other supporters of the University, and the diligence of faculty and staff, that we were able to see such tremendous success with our fundraising efforts. As our sesquicentennial celebration continues, we are already well into executing our strategy to keep up our momentum for the 2017-2018 fiscal year and beyond.”
SAU also launched a number of initiatives to assist with fundraising. In celebration of SAU’s sesquicentennial and in partnership with the National Alumni Association for SAU, the university established the 150 Club, in which supporters could become members for a minimum donation of $150. A Text2Give Program was initiated in May to allow donations via text message.
In addition, “$1.00 for Scholars,” a student-led initiative, was organized to raise money for student emergency scholarships. Students collected over $1,200 during a one-week period.
— Jazmin Powell