February 11, 2004

Alexander Family Challenges Class

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Responding to a challenge put forth by Trustee John Alexander ’74 and Elaine Alexander ’77, the senior class council announced a new donation campaign last night. The Alexanders, President Jeffrey S. Lehman ’77 and others encouraged about 60 seniors gathered in the A.D. White house to donate their time and money to Cornell.

To motivate seniors to raise money, the Alexanders have pledged to donate 25 dollars to a scholarship fund for each unrestricted donation of more than five dollars. They will give up to $25,000 for a yearly scholarship from the interest off of this investment. The scholarship will go to a rising senior to help them pay for that year’s tuition.

Through this program, the senior class council hopes that their class can make a significant contribution to the University.

“It is our hope that you join us in making [this] a class legacy,” said Esther Tang ’04, senior class council co-president.

The class council plans on raising money through a phone-a-thon and a Valentine’s Day mailing. They asked the seniors present to act as campaign chairs and recruit volunteers or to volunteer for the phone-a-thon.

“We want you guys to give us a hand, to help us out,” said Russell Franklin ’04, senior class council co-president.

The publicity arm of the class council also plans on heavily promoting their website, where seniors can donate money online.

The class council is focusing on involving students, rather than on the total amount of money raised. They hope to persuade 50 percent or more of the senior class to make some kind of donation. To reach the Alexander’s maximum donation, the class needs to have 1000 or more students give money.

“Historically, phone-a-thons have been fairly effective,” said Duane Sun ’04, senior class council publicity director. “We’re not encouraging people to give millions of dollars; we’re encouraging participation.”

The Alexanders are offering this matching scholarship because they believe strongly in the importance of unrestricted gifts, but wanted to fulfill the class council’s desire to establish a scholarship.

“We feel Cornell is dynamic today … and that the thing the University needs most is support, flexible support,” said John Alexander.

Unrestricted donations mean that the donor cannot not specifically decide where their money goes, although they can designate for it to go to a college or towards student life.

With the focus on participation, they want students to give what they can, even if it is only a small amount.

“You’re supposed to give until it feels good,” said John Alexander. “For some of you, it will be a lot.”

Although the details of the scholarship have not yet been fully decided, one idea is for the scholarship to cycle through the different colleges. Whichever college has the greatest percentage of students participating during this campaign will be the first to have a student receive the scholarship.

The class of 2004 is not the first to establish a scholarship, as the class of 2002 also created one.

During the event, the Alexanders, Lehman, and Trustee Carolyn Chauncey Neuman ’64 emphasized the importance of donations and alumni connections.

Hoping to inspire students to give a better gift than his class did, Lehman described how his class wanted to give a ginkgo tree. The tree was supposed to replace the infamous stump that stood in front of the Straight, but somehow never got planted.

“If we’re going to have permanent legacies of classes, let’s not have it be a ginkgo tree,” he said, quoting a former Cornell trustee.

He said that student participation in the campaign will not only benefit future generations at Cornell, but also current seniors.

“You will learn how to give yourself, how to ask others to give, and how to get half of the people you ask to say yes. These are important life skills,” he said.

Neuman emphasized the importance of giving and also of staying in contact with the university as an alumnus. She described how the connections she made benefited her both personally and professionally.

“It’s a lifetime connection,” she said. “Staying connected with Cornell is good for every one of us.”

Archived article by Shannon Brescher