McKendree University in Lebanon has received one of the largest donations in the school’s 187-year history.
The gift was given anonymously and totals $2.5 million, according to vice president Victoria Dowling. It has been earmarked for a long-planned project to expand and renovate the campus science building, Voigt Hall.
“It was tremendously generous,” Dowling said of the donation. “Something that is truly transformational for this institution.”
Mckendree’s Board of Trustees has a policy that requires all funds be in place before an expansion project may begin. With the sizable donation, the school is about half-way to the $18 million price tag for the Voigt Hall project. Fund raising began quietly in early 2012. School leaders hope construction will begin by 2017.
Both Dowling and university president James Dennis are optimistic that the donation will give the fundraising efforts steam.
“Momentum is the key word,” Dennis said. “Giving begets giving. People want to believe when they donate that it is going to something worthwhile; something that is really going to happen. So as they see it come closer to reality, they’re more likely to contribute.”
Dennis said McKendree said the $2.5 million donation has already inspired a couple of contributors to give $100,000 each toward the project.
“This gift has advanced our fundraising activity pretty dramatically,” Dowling said.
Additions to Voigt Hall include a large lecture facility, student research space, new labs and lab prep rooms and a grand entrance and lobby. Improvements to the existing portion of the building include faculty offices, a rooftop observatory, informal meeting spaces, updated labs and re-designed classrooms.
Dennis said it is important for McKendree to expand and renovate the science building while stocking it with the latest technology. The investment will allow the school to continue to offer top quality programs, he said.
“We have lots of students these days studying pre-med and pre-dent,” Dennis said. “We’ve carved out a nice niche in that area.”
Dowling said she could not say if the benefactor was a Mckendree graduate. But Dennis said that donors often never set foot in a classroom.
“There are people who call and say they appreciate what we’re doing here, and they’d like to be a part of it,” Dennis said. “They may not be graduates. But they’re supporters and friends of the university.”
Voigt Hall was built in 1965 and is named after Edwin Voigt, president of the university from 1964-68.
The largest gift in McKendree history was $6 million given by Fern Hettenhausen, of Belleville, toward the construction of the school’s performing arts center which opened in 2006.