Reunion year alums bring in millions of dollars in donations over Homecoming

Natalie Nelson, Staff Writer

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Over Homecoming weekend, Luther received millions of dollars in donations from the classes of 1968, 1978, 1983, 1993, and 2008 on Oct. 26-28.

Luther was presented with $5,077,000 in donations from the class of 1968 and just under $2 million from the class of 1978. The class of 1983 gave just under $250,000, the class of 1993 gave $527,000, and the class of 2008 gave a little over $40,000.

Director of Development and Current Gifts Mariah (Bringer) Smith (‘95) said the gifts announced at Homecoming are the result of nearly two years of reunion gift planning. Luther works with five different reunion years in that time to raise money, gain support for their class gifts, and plan their reunions.

“We’ve increased our staffing in 2013 for reunion giving and we’ve really been putting a lot of resources into this, so we’ve been seeing more and more gifts that come in and the amounts have risen in the past five years,” Smith said. “Even before we finished with this year’s reunion, we’re already 12 months into working on the 2019 reunions, so it’s a never-ending cycle.”

The books close at the end of the calendar year, so any donations that come in between now and Dec. 31 are added to the totals. Reunion gifts consist of pledges, cash gifts, and planned gifts like when alums include Luther in their wills or estates.

“We want to encourage people to think about Luther in their estate planning, and the reunion is a great time to talk to people about that,” Smith said. “We get to these big numbers through planned gifts that come in that are committed to the college. For the 50-year reunion, this is nearly two times as much as the next biggest class gift was, so this was quite a large number and we were very proud and pleased with this class.”

Most donors give to the Luther Fund, which supports scholarships, financial aid, academic programming, choir tours, athletics, and other expenses on campus. Other donors choose to give to family scholarships or to a class scholarship.

“We do rely on donations from donors and alumni,” Smith said. “The $2 million is a big part of the college budget and then these scholarships make up a big part of the financial aid that students receive.”

Class agent for the class of 1978 Julie Dahlen (‘78) helps coordinate and solicit donations among her class. She was pleased by the amount her class donated.

“I have a hard time asking people for money, but I’ve found it remarkably easy to reach out to my classmates,” Dahlen said. “It’s extremely gratifying. We came up with a very impressive dollar amount. We want to set things up so we can continue to support the college when we’re not around.”

The class of 1978 participated in a two-year giving challenge, and several members set up matching challenges. Dahlen expects the amount to exceed $2 million by the end of the calendar year. She said donations from alums often make a large difference in whether or not current students have the funds to graduate.

“You don’t pay for [an individual] degree, you invest in a process of learning and development,” Dahlen said. “It was the quality of the professors, the commitment to undergraduate education, and the values that the college was founded on that were really important to me.”

Dahlen believes students tend to take the commitment to quality undergraduate education for granted and said she did not realize how rare it was when she was a student.

“It’s easy to think ‘I wish I were someplace bigger,’ but it’s a very unique and wonderful opportunity to have fun and enjoy classmates and tap into those faculty connections who are unusually committed to education,” Dahlen said.

A class agent for the class of 1968 Len Bruce (‘68) was impressed by the Reunion Committee. The Class Giving subcommittee contacted classmates about attending the reunion and donating.

“We feel that Luther gave us a valuable gift of education,” Bruce said. “Not just in the classroom, but also in all of the activities, the personal attention of faculty, the presence of a faith-based environment, and the close friendships fostered in a small school.”

Bruce hopes students will participate in and appreciate every moment at Luther.

“Luther College is an awesome place and you can’t go wrong by being there,” Bruce said.

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