Homecoming Weekend 2018 – a time for remembering the past — opened with a celebration of Wilkes University’s future. Wilkes alumni, faculty, staff and students gathered in the McHale Athletic Center for the Gateway to the Future Campaign Kick-Off Celebration. The event launched the public phase of the $55 million fundraising campaign that will help to transform the University. The kickoff highlighted the development goals for the upcoming years for Wilkes campus, brick by brick, opportunity by opportunity and student by student.
The event was hosted by chief development officer Margaret Steele, who introduced two current students and one young alumna – all first-generation college students — who shared their college experiences. Student speakers included seniors Aislinn Speranza, a marketing and communication studies dual major, and biology major Dillion Davis, and recent graduate Nancy Ramirez ’18. Each student speaker spoke about the personal transformations each achieved during their Wilkes education.
Dillon Davis, a member of the honors program whose years at Wilkes have included conducting research in England that was funded by study abroad scholarships, reflected on his journey. “My time at Wilkes University has been absolutely nothing like the vision I had in place as an incoming freshman,” Davis said. “I have learned to listen to the advice of others and to believe in myself. And while I believe you should plan and have a plan, the most important thing we can do at Wilkes is to look for opportunities and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. ”
The event concluded with remarks by Jason Griggs ’90, who spoke on behalf of the University’s board of trustees and introduced Wilkes President Patrick F. Leahy. Leahy announced that more than $45 million has been raised toward the campaign total, which has led to increasing the campaign goal to $55 million. In announcing the revised goal, Leahy also announced that Griggs has made a $500,000 leadership gift to the campaign.
Calling the campaign kickoff “a special event on a special weekend,” Leahy noted that when the University’s strategic plan, also called Gateway to the Future, he was reminded of a quote that he had used in his installation address at Wilkes. “I quoted the American architect Daniel Hudson Burnham, who said ‘Make no little plans, for they have no power to stir the soul….Make big plans; aim high in hope and work,’ ” Leahy said, explaining that he took his cue from those words to advance an ambitious plan for Wilkes.
Leahy then outlined four major campaign projects that would be supported by the campaign:
- The renovation of the Ralston Athletic Complex
- The renovation of the building at 116 S. Main St., which will continue the redevelopment of South Main Street while providing new office space and student housing
- General scholarship and research support
- Expanding tuition assistance to make Wilkes more affordable and support the University’s tradition of providing access for first-generation students.
Leahy asked alumni to support the campaign at any level possible. Noting that alumni support is crucial to Wilkes’ rankings in lists of the top colleges in the United States published by magazines like U.S. News and World Report, Leahy stressed that gifts of any size are helpful.
The president closed the event by noting that everything the campaign funds comes down to one thing. “You see, like everything at Wilkes, it’s about the students,” Leahy said, referencing the three student speakers who had opened the program. “I hope you will support the campaign in their names. On behalf of them – and all of our students – thank you.”