July 29, 2011
Contact: Tom Tozer, 615-898-2919
Large gifts to MTSU reflect donors wanting to make a difference, enhance university
MURFREESBORO—During the 2010-2011 academic year, private giving from alumni and friends of Middle Tennessee State University increased 32 percent, well above national projections during a period when the economy is struggling to rebound from a recession.
“MTSU has worked hard to provide more ways to support giving, which accounts for some of that increase,” said Joe Bales, vice president for Development and University Relations. “We’ve had a better balance between annual support, special gifts and estate-planning bequests.”
The MTSU Foundation received more than $8.5 million in gifts this year. The greatest increase in support has been in the area of large gifts, Bales said.
“Donors are starting to realize that they have the ability to more effectively enhance the University through their gifts, so we’re seeing more large gifts from individual donors,” he noted.
MTSU President Sidney A. McPhee echoed that sentiment when he spoke of donors who give out of their devotion to education and academic achievement.
“When we can challenge our young people to pursue learning at an even higher level, our state and nation are the beneficiaries,” McPhee stated. “We are grateful to alumni and friends whose professional and personal success—and their subsequent generosity— will serve as examples to thousands of MTSU students in years to come.”
Programs at MTSU like the Centennial Scholars initiative help people realize that their donations can be applied directly to students who are determined to succeed in college, graduate and contribute to Tennessee’s work force.
“People really want to know the ‘what happened’ with gifts or how their gift will really matter,” Bales continued. “I think the reality is that most potential donors are more concerned with what we plan to do with gifts, and they want assurance that their gifts will make a difference.”
Gale and Jonelle Prince established the first Centennial Scholarship at MTSU in 2010 with a pledge of $100,000.
“We’re very proud to be associated with MTSU,” Jonelle said, when the couple made their commitment. “We think the school is very progressive.” Gale Prince (’57) is a Distinguished Alumnus of the university.
Each $100,000 endowment will provide a competitive award, renewable for a maximum of five years, while the student pursues his or her degree and remains eligible. A portion of the funds can be applied to study abroad, a unique feature of the scholarship.
The goal of the Centennial Scholars program is to establish 100 such endowments, which, when fully funded, will provide perpetual funds for 20 to 25 students every year, Bales said.
Nick Perlick, MTSU development director, added that in spite of the stagnant economy, his fundraising strategy at the outset was to nurture existing relationships with alumni and friends and build new ones.
“We spent a great deal of time listening to what was happening in their lives and keeping them abreast of University happenings and needs,” Perlick said. “When the time was right for some of them, they chose to make a significant investment in MTSU.”
Don and Carolyn (’64) Midgett established the first MTSU Centennial Scholarship earmarked specifically for the University Honors College program. Traditionally, these students are more likely to stay in school and graduate, according to Dr. John Vile, Honors College dean.
“The Honors College seemed to be an appropriate area (for the scholarship),” commented Don Midgett, whose family has been part of MTSU for more than 80 years.
Alumnus Jim Gaines (’69), who lives in Southern California, reaffirmed his devotion to MTSU by moving forward to establish the Jim Gaines Endowed Chair in American History through his estate.
“I tell people that if I had it to do over again, I would still go to MTSU,” Gaines noted. “There is still a small ratio between faculty and students. I think Murfreesboro and the people there are great.”
Pam Wright (’73), owner of Wright Travel in Nashville, made a $1.25 million commitment in 2007 to create the Wright Travel Endowed Chair in Entrepreneurship in MTSU’s Jones College of Business that will influence generations of students.
“The value that MTSU provides goes far beyond the community in terms of students who go out and contribute nationwide and help the economy,” Wright said.
Dave and Mary Elizabeth Thomas didn’t attend MTSU, but Dave Thomas’ consulting work in the radio industry resulted in his being asked to speak to a broadcast class in MTSU’s College of Mass Communication. He was so impressed with the faculty and students that the couple decided to include a bequest in their will to establish the David and Mary Elizabeth Scholarship in the college.
“Many times when people decide what to do with their assets when they’re no longer here, they obviously want to take care of family,” said Dave Thomas. “But they often don’t think as much as they could about students who have the desire and the ability but just need a helping hand.”
As state funding continues to decline, private support becomes even more significant for providing scholarships to talented students, encouraging research and attracting the finest faculty, Bales said.
Founded in 1911, Middle Tennessee State University is a Tennessee Board of Regents institution located in Murfreesboro and is the state’s largest public undergraduate institution. In September 2011, MTSU will celebrate its 100th year anniversary with special events and activities throughout the year—kicked off by a Blue-Tie Centennial Gala on Friday, Sept. 9.