September 14, 2009

Looking Forward to UA’s Vibrant Future

In the end, it was as much about the small stories as the splashy ones: The alumni who, in the midst of tough times, never faltered in their commitment to give to the University; the students who donated what they could, their budgets tight but their generosity boundless. Ultimately, say the chairs of the “Our Students. Our Future.” campaign, these grassroots efforts from UA’s loyal supporters, which joined a stream of sizable gifts, helped swell the total far past its original $500 million goal.

“The reality was that a core of Alabama alumni and friends answered the bell and supported the University,” says C. Kemmons Wilson Jr., who co-chaired the campaign with Ann K. and Carl E. Jones Jr., and the late James P. Hayes Jr. “Their love of the University and their depth of loyalty were just incredible. We were truly humbled by their enormous generosity.”

“I think there were three positive ingredients to this successful recipe,” says Carl Jones. “First, we had a very dynamic, enthusiastic, motivated leader in President Robert E. Witt. It’s easier to follow someone who has a vision and a plan, and you see the results. The second is the volunteers we recruited to be on the National Steering Committee. It was a huge ingredient to have them and their enthusiasm and constant involvement. And the final one is that early on, the faculty, staff and student body stepped up and made significant contributions.”

Wilson says that, as the campaign staff met with prospective donors and spread the message about the vision to make UA one of the premier public institutions in the country, alumni and others were reminded again of the deep impact the University had had on their lives. “Education is the common denominator to everyone's success and achievements,” he says. “And that great foundation was built right here at the Capstone.”

Equally exciting was the chance to offer that solid start to students who otherwise might not have been able to attend college. “At one of the early steering committee meetings, several scholarship recipients came and told their stories, and those were very moving,” Ann Jones says. “They were so articulate and happy to be at the University, and it was good to know that the University family had a part in it.”

Wilson is especially proud of the campaign-funded scholarships that help first-generation students attend the University. “That legacy of families sending the first generation to college is huge,” he says.

And he’s thrilled that they’ll be welcomed to a campus experiencing so much positive momentum. “There hasn’t been a more exciting time in the history of the University than right now,” Wilson says. “I think the story is out. People who are coming to campus are seeing new degrees of excellence, and I think there’s going to be a resounding, bold pride that will exude out of this.”


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