Take a College to Launch
By Doug Hubley
October was the month for launchingThe Campaign for Bates: Endowing Our Values, the College’s largest fund-raising drive to date. Two events, one looking to parents and the second to alumni, christened a campaign freighted with high expectations and a compelling sense of what’s at stake.
The Parents & Family Weekend launch, on Oct. 9, drew about 500 members of the Bates community to Lake Andrews. Five speakers — a student, a parent, faculty economist Michael Murray, Trustee Michael Bonney ’80, and President Elaine Tuttle Hansen — made the case for a fund drive designed to raise at least $120 million by June 2006. A literal launch provided spectacle and symbolism, as members of the crew team put a racing shell into Lake Andrews to carry spectators’ expressions of hope for Bates, written on cards during the ceremony, across waters glittering in the morning sun.
Three weeks later, the Homecoming Weekend launch in Merrill Gym featured a second call for guests’ hopes for Bates and a similarly high-powered roster of speakers, including Charles A. Dana Professor of French Dick Williamson and master of ceremonies Tom Renyi P’97, P’04, campaign co-chair with fellow Trustee Joe Willett ’73.
The speakers’ aspirations for Bates, their personal stories, and a touch of Mark Twain lent color and passion to the nitty-gritty of Bates’ financial situation. It fell to Bonney, on parents weekend, and Renyi, at Homecoming, to lay out the financial realities of the situation. “If we, who know and love Bates the best, can’t stretch to make this happen, who will?” Bonney asked.
The other speakers at both events illustrated Bates values in action. Julio Guevara ’07, son of immigrants from El Salvador, said that Bates gave him not only the close faculty interaction he had hoped for, but a surprising degree of personal support.
“I didn’t know that members of the administrative staff would invite me to their homes for Thanksgiving,” he said, “or to eat homemade carne guisada when I got homesick.”
Terry Byrnes P’05 recalled her first impressions of a welcoming campus, the kind of place where Professor John Pribram was willing to come over and open up a physics lab on Sunday to show to a prospective student and his parents.
That prospective student, Andrew, is now a senior (and one of the two rowers to take the shell across Lake Andrews on parents weekend, the other being Karl Dietrich ’05). Byrnes and her husband Jim now co-chair the Parents Fund with David Sand P’05.
The Byrneses didn’t hesitate to take on that responsibility, she said. “We believe that the Bates values are important not only to our student, but to the students that follow him.”
Michael Murray, Charles Franklin Phillips Professor of Economics, detailed the important contributions students are making to a research project he’s involved with. “When students are engaged in original research at the edge of knowledge, they tend to have a rich understanding of where new knowledge comes from,” he said. “One of my focuses for Bates in the future is to continue to have the resources to afford students this kind of opportunity.”
Harmonizing on the subject of Bates, Bonney and Renyi explained that The Campaign for Bates is about the basics: compensating faculty at levels competitive with its peers; maintaining academic excellence; ensuring that such excellence stays accessible to an increasingly diverse student body by strengthening financial aid; and addressing long-postponed facilities needs, such as student housing and a new dining commons.
Through a greater contribution from the annual Bates Fund, the drive will also reduce the operating budget’s dependence on tuition fees. Most important, after years of “doing more with less,” the Campaign for Bates would boost the endowment to a level that can support Bates quality and values for the long haul. (For an in-depth explanation of the endowment issue, see page 22.)
“We spend virtually the same dollars on instruction and financial aid as our peers, but our annual budget is much, much smaller,” Bonney said — with the result that other needs, such as facilities, have gotten short shrift.
“We cannot — we cannot — sustain this.”
Starting with Mark Twain’s apprenticeship on a Mississippi riverboat, President Hansen at both events inspired listeners to imagine the transformation Bates could achieve through The Campaign for Bates. Campaign planners, she explained, realized early on that Bates “must match the culture of academic rigor, independence, open exchange and service with an equal culture of philanthropy.”
“Along with our New England values went pride in our independence, self-reliance, and polite reluctance to talk about money,” she said. “But pride of another sort, pride in our extraordinary level of accomplishment, now motivates us to mount a campaign for the support that an institution of this caliber requires and deserves.”
Hansen’s hopes for Bates? “On our watch, let us secure for future generations a Bates that is stronger, more flexible, better-endowed,” she said. “On our watch, let us make it possible for Bates to flourish as a place where young people of great promise learn indelible lessons.”
Referring back to Twain, she said,
“On our watch, let us be lightning pilots — sure, courageous, undeterred navigators for one of the greatest colleges ever founded, our Bates.”