Catawba to use $73.2 million to improve campus, offerings

Published 12:00 am Sunday, April 22, 2018

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Catawba College recently wrapped up a 5-year fundraising campaign with nearly $13 million above its anticipated goal.

“We really weren’t expecting to surpass the goal by that much,” college President Brien Lewis said. “You always set a goal where you think you might be able to clear the bar. …So we were really delighted with the response.”

The campaign, which launched in December 2012, had a $60 million goal. Five years later, in December 2017, donors had contributed more than $73.2 million.

A campaign finale event was held Friday, April 6, in the Robertson College-Community Center on campus. Donors were able to tour various stations, view videos and poster board displays and hear representatives from different areas of the college explain the initiatives and work had been enabled by donations.

Lewis said the idea for a campaign came about shortly after he took over as college president in April 2012. As he, college administrators and the Board of Trustees began working on a strategic plan and a campus master plan, they knew they would need to do something more.

“We knew we would need to get a campaign underway to address those things,” he said.

The December 2012 launch was a silent one, where the college appealed to its major donors before taking fundraising to the public.

“And that gives it a little bit more momentum out of the starting gate,” Lewis said.

By the time the campaign had its public launch in October 2014, donors had already pledged approximately $27.6 million.

“So we were almost halfway to the goal when we announced,” Lewis said.

Over the past few years, community members, alumni and others have given “generously and enthusiastically,” and helped the college reach several goals. As a comprehensive campaign, any gifts made to Catawba in that time counted towards the goal — be it donors chipping in for scholarships or the school’s new solar panel system.

“So literally every kind of gift contributed to that $60 million goal,” Lewis said.

Alumni even made donations for projects that were “not visible or glamorous” — such as new roofing and HVAC systems.

“It’s wonderful to have donors who grasp the importance of that so that people have good facilities to work in,” Lewis said.

Lewis also highlighted that many donations were for updating technology and information systems.

“So not necessarily things people would see or think of as donor driven,” he said. “But a lot of times we have those things because donors understand the importance of them. They want our students to have the kinds of things they’re going to be working on in the workplace to learn on.”

Campaign funds will also help usher Catawba into the future. In recent years, the school has added two new programs — nursing and environment and sustainability — and Lewis said the school plans to add and expand.

The focus, he said, is on course offerings “broader and deeper,” both by adding new programs — such as a masters in accounting — and by expanding current ones — such as exercise science and therapeutic recreation.

Part of the campus master plan includes slowly growing the student population until it eventually is double its current number. But that will take many, many years, Lewis said. Still, it’s a future he looks forward to.

“The future I think is pretty bright,” he said.

But most of all, the past few years of giving have shown Catawba that its most precious resource are its people — those who learned and grew there, and those who live next door. And, hopefully, they see the college as a resource, as well.

“The campaign I think has served to really engage a number of alumni and community members with what’s happening at Catawba,” Lewis said. “And that’s really exciting for the long term — because it’s not about giving money, it’s about getting people invested in what we’re doing here.”

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.