Dreams fulfilled and more envisioned

UND Alumni Association & Foundation shares record-breaking success and future vision at annual address

DeAnna Carlson Zink holds a cape bearing the phrase “UND Hero,” honoring donors who helped break records for fundraising at the UND Alumni Association & Foundation. Image: YouTube screenshot.

With her face unmade and hair pulled back, Molli Detloff appeared on the screen as nearly 100 people took their seats.

Detloff came to the University of North Dakota on a scholarship that covered 10 percent of her expenses. Her athletic abilities were feeble, yet to be proven, she said on camera. But Detloff quickly rose to be the best freshman hammer thrower in the country. Her success earned her a full ride at UND.

She met with her donors, strangers who had chosen to support a stranger. She dialed her mother to share her excitement. Later in her UND career, however, while Detloff was preparing for a spring-break meet, her mother died unexpectedly, shortly before a drunk driver killed her sister.

Those tragedies only compounded the difference donors made in Molli’s life.

“I know my mom would be proud of what I am doing now and how far I have come,” Detloff said through tears. “It was an incredible moment when I got to meet my donors. My mom was still alive and I called her right after [and told her,] ‘I feel like my heart has been touched.’ I have never felt that before.”

The screen dimmed and DeAnna Carlson Zink, CEO of UND Alumni Association & Foundation (AA&F), emerged on the stage, herself with tearful eyes.

“Students like Molli are why we are here today,” Carlson Zink said.

The occasion was the annual AA&F Address on the state of the institution and its vision for the future. The event took place on Tuesday – the first day of classes – at the Gorecki Alumni Center.

Breaking records

Students like Molli are why donors give to the University, Carlson Zink said. And as students stand on the shoulders of their benefactors, the latter are “heroes” who “create opportunities never before dreamed possible.”

Because of such donor-heroes, AA&F celebrated a record fundraising streak for the fiscal year that concluded at the end of June. Thanks to a little over 9,000 donors – some 850 of whom were first-time givers – AA&F received $67.7 million, or nearly $18 million above the previous high mark of 2011.

Major drives such as Giving Hearts Day, UND Gives and the Champions Ball contributed to the impressive tally, while setting some event-specific records as well.

“By every metric, it was a successful 12 months,” Carlson Zink said to applause.

Scholarships, scholarships

The trove of funds splits into several tranches, all of which serve UND students. The most direct benefit stems from the $12 million earmarked for scholarships.

Although UND boasts seemingly affordable tuition when compared with national averages, paying for courses still burdens many students at the university.

“Just about every thank-you note written by a UND scholarship recipient mentions how their scholarship helps to reduce their stress,” Carlson Zink said.

That is why Eunice Kuhn, an alumna and long-time donor, gives back to her alma mater together with her husband and fellow UND graduate, Peter. The Kuhns were among several donors who attended the Address.

“It’s just good feeling to know we’re helping,” said Eunice Kuhn. “Now, someone does not have to work full-time or part-time or take out loans just to be able to go to school. We know what it’s like to have to pay off loans because we had to do that, too.”

 

Thanks to 9,000-plus donors representing all 50 states, the AA&F during Fiscal Year 2019 received commitments for $67.7 million. That’s nearly $18 million above the previous high mark of FY 2011. Photo by Sara Titera/UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Gifts to educate

Donations to AA&F also help students access quality education, which will be helped by a boost of $34 million for programs, faculty and priority needs over the past fiscal year.

During that span, donors also contributed to the University’s endowment fund, which has swelled by $60 million in 5 years to now stand at $285 million.

“The wonderful thing about endowment funds is that – with proper fiscal management – they will produce revenue for scholarships, programs and faculty needs in perpetuity,” Carlson Zink said.

In May, AA&F sowed some eternally flourishing seeds of academic opportunities with its first investiture ceremony. The generosity of Rick and Jody Burgum endowed a Music chair held by Simona Barbu, while Henry and Judee Herr endowed professorships now occupied by Katherine Campbell, chair of Accountancy, and Matt Notbohm, associate professor in Accountancy.

A gift from Hal and Kathy Gershman will enable the Stone House — the original president’s home on campus — to be renovated for use as an engagement center for graduate and international students. Photo by Sara Titera/UND Alumni Association & Foundation.

Campus for the future

Among the ways AA&F strives to enhance students’ in-class experiences is by improving the spaces  where courses are held. Thanks to funds secured by AA&F, extensive capital projects dot the campus.

The historic Stone House is to soon open its doors as a center for graduate students, thanks to a $3-million donation by Hal and Kathy Gershman.

Another donor, who remains anonymous, spurred momentum toward building an exceptional new home for the College of Business & Public Administration (CoBPA).

AA&F is also raising gifts for the second phase of the High Performance Center that will see the addition of a student-athlete academic center,  a sports medicine space, a strength and conditioning area and several coaches’ offices.

When you also consider the $10-million revamp of the Chester Fritz Library, a new Memorial Union, a brand new steam plant and a revamped University Avenue, “the list of completed and current construction projects is impressive,” said Carlson Zink.

Fruitful future

With coffers brimming with donations and campus buzzing with renovation, the University and AA&F are looking forward to a bright future.

“Coming off from a record-breaking year, we do have high expectations for our current fiscal year,” Carlson Zink said.

AA&F is already hard at work to secure the private grants to unlock the $20 million that the state Legislature has pledged toward a new CoBPA building, the groundbreaking for which is tentatively set for fall 2020.

AA&F is also tackling the $1.7-million North Dakota Higher Education Challenge Fund and a $250,000 match for the School of Law. Those initiatives pair every $2 raised privately with $1 in state funds.

“Donors love to take part in these public/private partnerships with the state,” said Carlson Zink. “It’s another reason I’m confident we can have an excellent fundraising year in fiscal year 2020.”