Sierra Moorefield, ’18, still remembers the look on her mother’s face when she had to tell her daughter that she could not afford to send her to college.
Opportunities were slim for Moorefield, a high-achieving student who grew up in the Eastern North Carolina town of Newport, population 4,617. But she never stopped working hard and dreaming big.
Then one day, an unforgettable phone call came.
Moorefield had earned the prestigious Meredith Legacy Scholarship – which is entirely merit-based – to attend Meredith College, turning her dreams into reality and propelling her toward a career in science.
With the guidance of her professors and advisors, Moorefield participated in undergraduate research and internships that solidified her interest in toxicology and prepared her for graduate school. She also enjoyed international experiences, including studying abroad in Scotland.
“Without the support of the Meredith Legacy Scholarship, I could not have attended this wonderful institution,” she said. “I would not have had the chance to chase down all of these amazing opportunities. This scholarship changed my life.”
Today, Moorefield is a doctoral student in toxicology at North Carolina State University.
Moorefield’s story is one of many. Countless Meredith students have benefited from scholarships and other opportunities made possible by the generosity of the College’s alumnae, faculty, staff, and supporters.
And now, thanks to Beyond Strong | The Campaign for Meredith, even more students will have the chance to follow in the footsteps of those before them.
The enormously successful Campaign kicked off its silent phase in 2012, then went public in grand style with the announcement of a $75 million goal during the 2016 Founders’ Day celebration. At that point, the Campaign had already raised $52 million, exceeding the College’s previous campaign total by $11 million.
In June 2018, the Campaign passed the $75 million mark, a milestone that Meredith President Jo Allen, ’80, won’t soon forget.
“There are always some unknowns going into a campaign,” she said. “It may take you 30 years to reach your goal, but you will eventually make it. The pace of this Campaign, the enthusiasm for Meredith, the readiness, the passion people have for this College, it all came together very nicely. I’m thrilled that we exceeded our goal.”
Lennie Barton, vice president for institutional advancement, agrees.
“I have to admit I thought $75 million was a stretch,” Barton said. “Keep in mind that Meredith raised $41 million in the previous campaign, just five years before we started this one. And we were coming out of the recession. I have been through four major campaigns in my career, and this is by far the most successful one I’ve ever been associated with.”
The Campaign closed in December, raising a grand total of $90,466,720.
Barton said success is defined by far more than a number, though.
“It’s about the enthusiasm and the involvement of volunteers and our administration, our Board of Trustees, key friends, faculty, and staff,” he said.
Jo Cooper, ’67, described the Campaign as a team effort.
As Campaign co-chair, Board of Trustees member, and donor, Cooper saw firsthand how the Campaign energized the Meredith community.
“The entire community came together, which I think speaks volumes about the College and the quality of the education that students receive at Meredith,” she said.
The Campaign also made a statement, Allen said, about the value of Meredith in the current challenging climate of higher education.
“There is a rather pervasive message out there that women’s colleges can’t make it, that they’re closing,” she said. “And it’s just not true. There are fewer, of course, and some have changed. But that’s a story in higher education altogether, and it’s really not only about women’s colleges.”
Allen thinks Meredith has been able to turn that message around and show that we are going strong through the outcome of this Campaign.
“We certainly celebrate the money raised, but it’s also important that there are people out there who see Meredith as being worthy of million-dollar gifts,” Allen said. “It’s been really exciting to know that people are looking at Meredith in a new way.”
In fact, during the Campaign, the College received 32 gifts at the million-dollar level or greater, a significant spike from the three such gifts raised during the previous campaign. The College’s endowment also grew from $67 million to $116 million.
“I am particularly proud of the growth of Meredith’s endowment,” said donor and Campaign Co-chair Ann Lowery, ’74, whose generosity enabled the creation of the Lowery Fitness Center. “This is an endowment noteworthy for a small college. Endowments are a symbol of trust – trusting that Meredith College will continue to invest wisely in educating strong women.”
Built around the six pillars of the College’s strategic plan, the Campaign focused on growing support for these priority areas: academic excellence, enrollment, financial strength, facilities and technology, marketing and visibility, and quality of life.
And, as diverse as they are, each one experienced tremendous success.
The Campaign paved the way for new academic programs ranging from public health to hospitality management. It enabled the creation of the StrongPoints® signature program, enhanced study abroad, and expanded the Wings program.
On the enrollment front, the Campaign raised more than $35 million in scholarship funding, including more than 92 new scholarship endowments and funds.
“Scholarships for Meredith matter because we want to bring in a well-rounded class of great academic talent, but also the students who’ve never really had a chance to shine. And those who have great need or have overcome great difficulties in their lives,” Allen said. “These women come in and do phenomenal things.”
Perhaps the most visible outcome of the Campaign are the new and enhanced facilities on campus, such as the newly-renovated Johnson Hall, Jo Ellen Ammons Welcome Center, Lowery Fitness Center, and Elizabeth Triplett Beam Fountain Plaza. They’ve made the campus even more inviting, functional, and beautiful, Allen said.
But the facilities gifts you can’t necessarily see are also important to the College’s success, she said.
“We received an anonymous gift that was totally unrestricted, and it’s been wonderful reporting back to the donor how we’ve used it because I think we’ve spent it on things they might never have thought to single out,” she said. “For instance, we had three elevators in poor condition, including one in the building where we house disability services. Repairing those was critical.”
Another anonymous gift allowed Meredith to build a new electrical grid, replacing a badly outdated system, much of which was original to the College’s construction.
“The money that’s come in for the College’s greatest needs is incredibly valuable,” Allen said. “That’s the money that pays the utility bills or repairs a sidewalk. Nobody gets excited about giving $650,000 for a new boiler. But a whole campus full of cold showers on winter mornings isn’t going to help us very much. Gifts like these make a big difference.”
Other Campaign highlights include new and enhanced faculty and staff development support, a new wellness program for faculty and staff, and new student clubs and organizations. And in support of the marketing and visibility pillar, the Campaign fueled the development of the widely acclaimed Going Strong brand campaign.
Perhaps more than anything, the Campaign elicited support from the entire Meredith community in an unprecedented way.
According to both Allen and Barton, the outpouring of support from the College’s faculty
and staff was phenomenal. A whopping 73.2 percent made gifts during the Campaign (compared to the national average of 26 percent).
“One of the most exciting things for me was learning how much our faculty and staff were giving back,” Allen said. “Seventy-three percent is just mind-boggling. I’m grateful for the gifts, absolutely. But, to recognize what it really symbolizes, is that people are working at a place they believe in. And, I don’t know that 73 percent of the American or the world population believes in the place where they work.”
The annual giving total raised in the Meredith Fund climbed from nearly $700,000 a year before the Campaign to $2.3 million last year. Thirty-eight percent of alumnae gave during the Campaign (compared to 18 percent nationally). And Meredith parents also got in on the action, contributing over $3 million.
“I think we have changed the culture of philanthropy at Meredith College,” Barton said. “The understanding that you need to continue to support your alma mater and love it like you always have might be an intangible accomplishment of this Campaign.”
Whether you’re a member of the faculty or staff, an alumna, or a friend of the College, giving back is key, said Leslie Hayes, ’80, Board of Trustees chair, donor, and member of the Campaign steering committee.
“Meredith provides students with an exceptional education, the opportunity to learn and grow, and build skills,” she said. “Supporting Meredith ensures that we have the best faculty, a great campus, and buildings with the latest equipment. We have to grow and change to stay relevant, and supporting Meredith is a great investment.”
The Campaign raised more than $39 million in planned gifts, which means individuals designated gifts in their wills to benefit Meredith in the future. The growth of this pipeline signifies investment in the College in more ways than one, Allen said.
“Everybody wants to believe in the longevity of things that they love,” she said. “It doesn’t matter whether it’s a place, or person, or institution. The number of people who have given estate gifts is tremendous. It is really important because it shows that they trust us. They believe that Meredith College will consistently be doing the right things for our students.”
Providing for students is at the heart of the Campaign giving them unique opportunities, supporting their academic and personal growth, and sending them out into the world prepared to be leaders.
“I believe everything I’ve done in my career revolved around having gone to Meredith,” Cooper said. “I had pride and I had confidence when I left Meredith. I believed I could set out to do a lot of different things, and I think it’s really important for women to have that sort of undaunted spirit.”
Women like Sierra Moorefield.
“The Meredith Legacy Scholarship was a pathway to my future,” she said. “Many of these career opportunities would not have been available to me if I had not attended Meredith.”
Moorefield is living proof that giving matters. Because fundraising is about far more than just numbers. This Campaign ignited a community and sparked momentum that will fuel the College’s growth and enable the creation of even more opportunities for even more students.
“This is just the beginning,” Allen said.
“Thank you for believing that Meredith and its community are worth investing in,” she said. “Thank you for believing that we are capable and innovative.
“Keep watching us. We’re going to do even more.”