From the Goucher Quarterly, Fall/Winter 2008

“Wait,” some of you may be thinking (or even saying), “didn’t they wrap up the last capital campaign just the other day?”

Time does fly. In fact, it has been a decade since the successful conclusion of the college’s last capital campaign. Goucher has grown and changed dramatically during that time, and, as you may have read in the previous pages, its future holds even more exciting prospects.

This college has staked out an important leadership role in higher education with the nation’s first study-abroad requirement. We are constructing a new library and community gathering place—the Athenaeum, a signature building that will enhance the Goucher experience for everyone. We are establishing environmental sustainability and study as an urgent priority. We are seeking to endow new professorships while enhancing the diversity of our faculty, staff, and student body, and we are working to make a liberal arts education available to students who in the past could never dream of affording it. We are also determined to make life on our campus ever more vibrant by strengthening athletics, supporting student-led projects, encouraging community outreach, and in multiple other ways,. In addition, we must increase scholarship aid overall and reduce the burden of loans on our graduates.

All of these efforts and initiatives will be important to the college’s reputation, and to its ability to survive and thrive in an extremely competitive marketplace. It should be obvious to all that Goucher’s strengths today add value to the degrees of those who graduated in the past, and that this will continue to be valid in the future.

But all of these programs cost money—far more than tuition alone can, or should, possibly bear.

We always look to every imaginable source to balance our budget: renting out our facilities whenever prudent and possible, fighting to sustain Maryland’s public support for independent higher education under the decades-old Sellinger program, and taking out loans and issuing bonds to the degree our financial advisers and the rating agencies consider responsible.

There is a misconception on Capitol Hill and elsewhere that all independent colleges have tremendous wealth and massive endowments that they should use to keep costs down for students and their families. We are certainly proud that Goucher’s endowment, through hard work by the Board of Trustees and excellent outside consultants, has reached the unprecedented level of $222 million. However, considerations of intergenerational equity impose a certain discipline and inspire us to stay as close as possible to an endowment spending rate goal of 5 percent a year, so that future members of the Goucher community may benefit from what we do today, just as we enjoy the legacy of those who came before us.

That brings us to the role of philanthropy as an essential means to help fund the college’s ambitious agenda. It is a fact of life in America today that until and unless there is a new, major infusion of federal money into higher education—not a likely prospect anytime soon—private sources must be relied upon for significant support. This is increasingly true for public institutions, as well as private ones, but it is especially the case for liberal arts colleges, where the kind of individual attention we provide is inherently costly.

Foundations and corporations help some, but most of the responsibility for philanthropy to a place like Goucher falls on alumnae/i and their families, parents, and other friends who admire what we do. We need the help of our loyal longtime backers, but we also have an urgent need to find new supporters.

Many people, of course, have been consistently kind to the college over the years. But our alumnae/i participation rate in annual giving is low compared with many of our peers, and we have been hard-pressed in recent times to meet our target of a $2 million contribution to Goucher’s budget from the Annual Fund. This may be due, in part, to the feeling by some that Goucher is somehow not the same place they once knew.

I am here to tell you that although this college may have evolved through difficult times (as all innovative and resilient institutions do), it is still and will always be Goucher, a great and worthy object for your attention and affection whose core values are as strong as ever. Transcending Boundaries: The Campaign for Goucher College gives us an opportunity to make up for lost time and dramatically improve participation in giving. Enthusiastic early donors have already contributed more than $57 million to this campaign in its “quiet” phase—and this tally includes some examples of extraordinary generosity—but now we have to sprint toward our goal of at least $80 million. Inevitably, this means that we will be asking people to count the college and its future among their top personal philanthropic priorities.

So when you see me coming your way during the next few years, I hope you will not run in the other direction, or resort to the cliché that college presidents, these days, are just glorified fundraisers who need not be taken seriously. I take great pride in raising funds and finding support for Goucher, a task I could not possibly perform effectively if the college—with a 100-percent increase in applications over the past seven years—were not a place that is building upon its distinguished past to arrive at a brilliant future.

The better we succeed in this capital campaign, the better we will be able to do the rest of our important work. I hope you will help make this possible.