November 19, 2015, Carlinville, IL— Blackburn College announced it has entered the public phase of its $25 million comprehensive capital campaign, Creating Opportunity! Since the silent phase began in 2014, the college has raised almost $17.9 million toward the campaign. Blackburn kicked off the public phase at a dinner event during the college’s Homecoming festivities on September 26.
“The Creating Opportunity! campaign is the largest campaign to date for Blackburn,” noted Blackburn President John Comerford. “Due to the incredible generosity of alumni and some very special friends of the college, we are well underway to meeting the campaign goal of $25 million.”
According to Comerford, the five objectives of the campaign are noteworthy and will have a lasting impact at Blackburn College.
• Increasing scholarship funds to ensure that college continues to be affordable for students.
• Supporting faculty members to assist with professional growth and retention.
• Refining and expanding Blackburn’s unique Work Program to coordinate development of work positions with skills development, and alignment with vocational goals.
• Funding campus improvements will transform 20th century buildings into 21st century learning and living facilities, along with investments in updated and enhanced technology.
• Growing the Gideon Blackburn Fund to provide annual support for the college.
“Successful campaigns are the result of a shared vision of everyone connected with Blackburn,” Comerford commented. “Our campaign success will move Blackburn College forward and help us achieve our goals for the institution and our students. We recognize that Blackburn has a unique mission—as one of the few places that helps students achieve a college education when they may not be able to due to financial need. We also know there are many more students to serve and much more to be done. Each objective of the Creating Opportunity! campaign will help lay the groundwork for the success of countless future students at Blackburn.”
During the silent phase, Blackburn has witnessed an outpouring of support and has been able to accept remarkable gifts such as:
• $25,000 from a current staff member for scholarships
• $25,000 from a current staff member toward renovations of the Lumpkin Learning Commons
• $25,000 from a recent alum for scholarships
• $50,000 from a current staff member for scholarships and the College’s annual fund
• $50,000 from an alumnus for career center program improvement
• $50,000 from an alumna for funding a scholarship and lecture program
• $100,000 from a non-alumnus trustee for an endowed position to honor faculty member Dr. Ed Zalisko, for science advisement and student development
• $100,000 for technology improvements from non-alumnus trustee
• A donation of the lead gift from alumnus Ed Jaenke, to reopen the former Den building as the Claire Jaenke Alumni Center
• $170,000 from a non-alumnus trustee for capital projects and new Steinway piano in Clegg Chapel
• $210,000 to endow the Blackburn Work Program, from an alumnus who said the college’s Work Program changed his life
• $290,000 in a cash and estate gift from local friends of the college
• $300,000 from friend of the college Pirrko Graves to an endowed scholarship
• $335,000 from the Lucille Jones Estate for renovations in the Lumpkin Learning Commons
• $750,000 from a trustee and wife toward the science building and art program endowments
• $900,000 from an alumnus estate for scholarships
• $1 million from the Give Something Back Foundation for scholarships granted to high achieving, low income students from Will County
• $1.1 million from a trustee and alumnus
• $1.2 million from alumni husband and wife
• $1.5 million gift from friend of the college Pirrko Graves, creating the Dr. Irving Lawrence Graves Endowed Chair in Biology, recognizing the popular alumnus and educator
• Hundreds and thousands of annual fund donors helping Blackburn College, generating more than $3 million in gifts, large and small, over the last couple years
“This list is just a sample,” said Comerford. “Each gift tells a story of a donor who wanted to help students, to make a difference, or the story of partnerships with staff and volunteers. This grand total of gifts received is a tribute to the many people who want to be a part of Blackburn’s mission and ensure Blackburn’s vision and future.”
The Creating Opportunity campaign is co-chaired by David Olsen ’73, of Madison WI, and Jennifer Shelby, of Champaign, IL. Both are trustees of the college and are very passionate about the campaign.
“Blackburn College is important to me for two reasons,” noted Olsen. “The first reason is personal, it provided me with a chance to attend college and earn a degree. But even more important is Blackburn’s fulfillment of what we know as the American Dream. This nation was built on a principle of fairness where persons should have a chance to better themselves through talent and hard work. But in today’s world, there are huge obstacles to those opportunities. There is higher tuition, a slipping middle class, increasingly burdensome student debt, and decreasing government support of higher education.”
“Today, there are not many places where students of modest financial means can find a path of opportunity. Blackburn College is one of them. My hope is that the Creating Opportunity! campaign and the participation of Blackburn’s alumni and friends will help shine a light on this vision of the American dream.”
Jennifer Shelby added, “We thank everyone who has contributed to date. Each donor has helped establish a solid base for our efforts and we look forward to the additional support of others as we reach for unprecedented goals in the Creating Opportunity! campaign.”
“We are impressed by our donors’ support of the campaign during the quiet phase and feel others will deliver similarly impressive results during the public phase,” Shelby continued. “We thank all of our donors for their support and investment in Blackburn College.”