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UWRF Foundation celebrates 60 years of support to the campus

September 25, 2008

The night was complete with a jazz band, singing choir and a grand piano, all contributing to UW-River Falls Foundation’s 60th anniversary celebration. 

The Foundation was established in 1948, making it the first Wisconsin state college foundation that solely commits to funding for scholarships, special fundraisers, grants and improving the campus and experience for students and faculty.

The Foundation has developed two main goals for the University. To provide scholarships for students and to raise grants for the faculty, students and undergraduates, according to Dan McGinty, the interim executive director of university advancement and interim president of the UWRF Foundation.

“The Foundation provides an opportunity for students to research over the summer,” Amanda Liesch, an international studies senior and recipient of a $2,500 grant for her research project, said.

According to the UWRF Foundation information brochure, over half a decade ago President Eugene Kleinpell and E.P. Rock introduced the idea of a foundation, previously known as the River Falls State Teachers College Foundation, to the University with the first campaign titled, “Feed the Falcon Fieldhouse Fund.” 

Even though the assets fell more than $240,000 short of the goal, the University fund held strong to raising money and advancing the UWRF campus.

Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the University concentrated on retaining a relationship with UWRF alumni well after they graduated through an alumni magazine, a distinguished alumni award, annual alumni giving drive and a visiting professor program.

From the first student telethon established in 1971 to the creation of the Student Alumni Association in 1985, the Foundation had raised over $400,000 and awarded more than 260 scholarships.

According to the UWRF Foundation informational brochure, in the 1980s the Student Alumni Association and the Faculty Grant Program was established. The Foundation continued to grow, and by the early 1990s, the Foundation assets and scholarship programs both reached $1 million.

In 1994, the Foundation helped raise funds for the Swensen sundial, which is located on the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. Two years later, the Reach for the Futures Capital Gifts Campaign was created that launched more academic scholarships, supported new and advanced technology, provided support towards the growth of the campus faculty and the Wisconsin Academic Excellence Scholarship.

The Lucile Sprigg gift was the largest donation given to the foundation, according to McGinty.  The $1 million gift, given in memory of Roy and Maude Spriggs, was donated to establish scholarships among the leaders of the student body.

The UWRF Foundation has always seen “a steady growth” since the beginning of the non-profitable organization, McGinty said.

“Within the last five years, the foundation has received $1.5 million each year, entirely from gift income,” McGinty said.

The continued success of the foundation has been maintained thanks to the “37,000 alumni of UWRF,” McGinty said. “Without a doubt, people love this University and we hope for them to support it.”

According to McGinty, alumni, along with corporate support and friends of the campus, have donated by direct mail pieces, through the fall telethon, spring phone charity events and through the UWRF Foundation Web site.

“The Foundation keeps alumni informed about how the campus is developing,” Amy Robak, a junior majoring in conservation and land-use planning, said. Without the donations from the alumni and other supporters, the annual changes made to create a safe and educational environment for the students and faculty would not be possible.

“We are forever grateful of donators. We cannot thank them enough,” McGinty said.

Going into 2008, the Foundation has more than $14.1 million in net assets, 583 scholarships were granted and the future goals for the UWRF campus, students and staff are strong.

According to McGinty, future fundraising campaigns will center on the improvement of the health and human performance center and remodeling Ramer Field. 
“The act of soliciting will help reach the $2 million goal over the next two to three years beginning this spring,” McGinty said.

The University, students and faculty benefit from the Foundation and everything they hope to improve and maintain on campus.

“I really hope the Foundation continues to be able to support undergraduate research, summer grants and school year grants,” Liesch said. “The Foundation does a lot of work that’s not visible to us.”

Besides raising funds for the University, students can help the UWRF campus in improving the experience of the next generation of undergraduates and faculty.

“Share the message about how special this campus really is,” McGinty said. “And how special our teachers really are.”