John 16:24 is one of my favorite Bible verses because it expresses the power of naming our needs. It is also a complicated message fraught with interpretations, conditions, and the burden of distinguishing real needs from frivolous wants.
I always thought the toughest part of my job as president would be discerning and then asking for what we truly need and hope to receive. As alumnae, faculty, staff, trustees, and other friends of the College, you consistently ask me what the College needs and then step forward with your gifts, your energy, your connections, passion, and commitment.
Since I have been president, we have built a strategic plan to set the direction for the College, shortly followed by a comprehensive campaign to fund that plan. At $69 million, we are closing in on our goal of $75 million. In our first 24-hour giving challenge last year, we hoped to raise $125,000 in honor of the 125th anniversary of the College’s founding. We met that goal by 11 a.m. and ultimately raised $283,000. This year we surpassed our $250,000 goal and concluded the day with $379,000.
All seems good – with a rhythm and continuity that relays a consistent message about the College’s need for scholarships, faculty/staff development, facilities enhancements, and a stronger endowment.
And then the lake drained. Was it too soon to ask, yet again, for your help? The further question – is this a need or a want? – became clearer when we heard your responses that part of the campus’s appeal (and thus, our students’ interest in coming to Meredith not to mention what draws our friends back year after year) is the lake. Its idyllic setting has been the site of traditions, friendships, romances, undergraduate research projects, theater productions, concerts, solitude, and reflection.
So, yes, we are restoring the lake, and I am so grateful to you for the $188,000 you have helped us raise so far in support of the renovation.
And then came the proposed I-440 beltline expansion – and no amount of money would matter in convincing NC Department of Transportation (NCDOT) to reconsider, to move the project, to ameliorate the effects on our campus and on our students living in The Oaks Student Apartments or commuting to accessible parking lots directly across from their academic buildings, or conducting research in the forest, or playing on the athletic practice fields – our most valuable site for future expansion.
And so we asked you to support the College by writing NCDOT with your opinion. And you wrote. And wrote. And wrote. Your letters poured in to the NCDOT, commemorating your memories and your ongoing commitment to the strength of this College and encouraging them to reconsider their plans.
That project will continue to evolve over time. For now, I am grateful to you all for your demonstrable commitment to Meredith and for the experience of leading and learning what it truly means to ask … and receive.
So is it tough to ask for help? No. It is humbling beyond measure.
President Jo Allen, ’80
Meredith Magazine, Fall 2017