College of Arts and Letters: Creating a Legacy

Posted at 1:56 PM, May 12, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-12 13:56:02-04

As the MSU Alumni Associationevolves from a dues-based program to a two-tiered structure of services and recognition effective July 2016, alumni boards across colleges at MSU have discussed methods of operating without funds from annual dues.

The College of Arts and LettersAlumni Board of Directors decided to address this change head-on, creating an endowment that will allow the board to continue with business as usual – and beyond.

Exiting member Jo-Anne Prendeville, a French major from the class of 1969, wanted to leave a legacy after her years of service on the board. As chairperson of the awards committee, Prendeville was among those who helped select and approve student proposals, awards and grants throughout the year. Her passion for the awards committee led her to become the benefactor for what became the College of Arts and Letters Alumni Board Discretionary Endowment.

Dean Christopher Long says he’s never seen anything quite like it before. While there were other options, including yearly pledges from members, the creation of an endowment shows the forward thinking of the CAL board members. The decision to make the endowment discretionary will allow future board members to use the funds based on the needs and trends of the future.

The awards committee currently uses the Alumni Endowed Student Book Scholarship, funded by a donor, and board-funded Robert L. Fiore Student Book Scholarship to provide select students with money for books and supplies annually; student groups are awarded grant money in two cycles based on proposals and consideration of the committee. With the newly-created CAL Alumni Board Discretionary Endowment, there will be a budget for additional grants, CAL-sponsored events and outreach.

Kathy Spring, assistant director of development with CAL, says the fundraising initiative of the CAL board mirrors the Empower Extraordinarycampaign. At campaign events, there is an element of storytelling involved, as donors share what inspired them to make gifts in an effort to encourage others to participate. Following Prendeville’s lead, other members were inspired to jump on board.

Jill Vondrasek, marketing and communications director for the College of Nursing and recent Jack Breslin Distinguished Staff Award recipient, shared her story at the spring 2016 board meeting. “I wouldn’t be where I am without the College of Arts and Letters,” she said. Prior to the meeting, the endowment was around $11,000 short of its goal. By the end of the meeting, member pledges collectively made the endowment a reality.

Linda Karbo, assistant director of alumni relations, calls it “a magical moment.”

Members of the CAL advancement team are continuing to share the opportunity with board emeriti; former presidents Brad Deacon and Martha Moyer have already donated gifts to the endowment. The CAL Alumni Board is also looking to expand its relationship with former board members, not only financially but also by involving them in CAL events.

By taking the future into their hands and eliminating the unknown, the CAL Alumni Board of Directors has created something extraordinary: a sustainable legacy of empowering the students, faculty and alumni of the College of Arts and Letters.