1904 or 2004, the truth about major fund raising efforts is this: The college is the campaign, and the campaign is the college.
By H. Jay Burns, Editor
“Dear Sir: Permit me to ask your attention to Bates College, Lewiston, Maine.”
Among famous first lines, the opening of President George Colby Chase’s letter to philanthropist Andrew Carnegie doesn’t quite entice the reader the way, say, “Call me Ishmael” does. But then again, Chase would make his point in a mere 3,000 words, not 500 pages.
Seeking Carnegie’s financial support, Chase gave a written tour of Bates. He noted the “eager, ambitious” students who “relish a struggle…. Few count work a hardship.” And the egalitarian Bates culture: “No college could be broader or more tolerant. The poorest [student] of real intellectual power and honorable ambition can go through Bates with constant self-respect.” He described the faculty: “…professors and teachers whose scholarship would not suffer in contrast with that of the instructors in the best-known institutions of our country.”
Carnegie responded, first with a $50,000 endowment gift, then with a $50,000 capital gift that helped build Carnegie Science Hall.
Chase was a shy, introverted former English professor. “There was nothing perky” about him, said a former student. Yet he developed into a brilliant fund-raiser. During his presidency, Bates built, acquired, or reconditioned 13 buildings, and the endowment quadrupled to $1.13 million.
In Bates College and Its Background, Alfred Anthony suggests that donors responded to Chase because Chase allowed Bates to sell itself. A good listener, Chase also celebrated the College’s academic values with persistence – indeed, “length and tediousness were his only dangers.” Most of all, like a scientist who has mapped a genome, Chase recognized every one of Bates’ defining traits. He knew then what fund-raising consultants now try to hammer home to colleges on the verge of new fund-raising campaigns: The college is the campaign, and the campaign is the college.
Bates has just launched the $120 million Campaign for Bates: Endowing Our Values (see stories on page 5 and 22, on the Web at www.bates.edu/campaign). The campaign comes a century after Chase mailed his letter to Carnegie’s mansion at 2 East 92nd St. in Manhattan, yet the two fund-raising efforts are really just a hop, skip, and a jump apart – they both express hope for Bates.
Chase closed his letter by asking Carnegie to join Bates in the work of strengthening America at the turn of the century, noble work “in which she believes herself to be a co-laborer with you.” In a similar fashion, President Hansen, herself a former English professor, opened The Campaign for Bates with a call to action.
“Bates is our responsibility,” she said. “Now more than ever, we must work together to articulate, celebrate, and pass on the time-honored virtues of Bates. Each of us is called to Bates for a reason, and together we hold Bates in our hands.”
H. Jay Burns, Editor