SALEM — It was a long road, but Salem State University has finally crossed its $25-million finish line.
The university’s 10,000 Reasons campaign, a years-long drive to raise $25 million for scholarships, on-campus programming and a substantial endowment, has wrapped up. The campaign was launched in early 2011 and announced to the public in early 2014, at which point it had already raised about $15 million.
Monday morning, university leaders announced to faculty that the goal had been met.
“We’re so appreciative, so grateful for all the individuals that have donated to the campaign,” said university president Pat Meservey.
It took 11,988 donors to hit the $25-million mark, Meservey said. Close to 93 percent of the university’s full-time faculty and staff kicked in cash, which she said was “just an extraordinarily high number.
“Our faculty and staff (are) really committed to the mission of Salem State,” she said. “They believe strongly in the work we’re doing and the opportunities we provide to our students, and the role we play here in Northeast Massachusetts.”
The fundraiser, Meservey said, was all about those opportunities.
The campaign was named 10,000 Reasons to represent the approximate number of students on campus.
“The attempt was to have a broad fundraising opportunity, to raise resources in a number of different areas,” said Meservey. “One, first and foremost, was looking at scholarships. The second was looking at providing programming for student activities, looking at academic programming and faculty support, and looking at building our annual fund so we have a sustained fundraising activity that would carry on after the campaign was completed.”
About two-thirds of the money will support Salem State’s endowment, according to Meservey.
“The funds go into accounts where we have a spending policy of being able to use 4 percent of those funds each year,” she said, “with the intent that it’ll be constantly replenished due to investment.”
That leaves roughly $8 million, which will be used for more immediate needs, including programming and student support.
Some of that cash will go toward the Mainstage Theater, now officially known as the Sophia Gordon Center for Creative and Performing Arts. The facility, which is being renovated, received a donation of $3.3 million from Bernard and Sophia Gordon as part of the 10,000 Reasons campaign to cover programming costs once construction is complete.
Kim Gassett-Schiller, a business major who graduated from Salem State in 1983, co-chaired the 10,000 Reasons campaign with local philanthropist Henry Bertolon, a 1974 alum.
“When I was at Salem State University, (the fitness center) was what I called a dungeon,” Gassett-Schiller said. “For a young, female co-ed, it wasn’t a welcoming place.”
Ever since graduating, Gassett-Schiller has given back every year, starting with a single dollar the year she graduated. Her donation for the campaign reached seven figures, she explained.
Since 1983, the fitness center had about 40,000 square feet added to it, saw another 9,000 square feet renovated and other upgrades. It was dedicated to Kim’s parents, Harold and Marilyn Gassett.
“I couldn’t say no,” Gassett-Schiller said of her donation to improve the fitness center, which happened during the campaign. “It was very easy to say yes, because I realized how important it was to the whole community — the students, faculty, and staff — to stay fit or start a fitness program, to help socialize, shoot hoops, do yoga or just any type of fitness, and to have a safe place to do it right on campus.”
A lot of the cash raised in the campaign came from students and will go back to them, according to Cynthia McGurren, vice president of Institutional Advancement and the executive director of the Salem State Foundation.
“We immediately got our students involved in the campaign when it was launched in 2011,” said McGurren, Class of 1983. “They’re going to be some of the most important recipients of the funds.”
She noted that in the past several years, the university has seen student giving increase 290 percent. In the same time, scholarships have jumped up from $1,500 per year to $6,000 per year. The nearly $18 million endowment, however, is separate of those funds.
The 10,000 Reasons campaign was the first time Salem State had done a campaign of that magnitude, said Meservey, and now that it’s over, the focus will be put on putting those dollars to work. Fundraising, however, will still continue, she said — via annual giving sought from regular donors.
Contact Salem reporter Dustin Luca at 978-338-2523, DLuca@salemnews.com or on Twitter @DustinLucaSN.