50th Reunion Class Projects Make Impact at Meredith
By Emily Parker
50th Reunion Class Projects Make Impact at Meredith
By Emily Parker
Meredith College reunions are a time-honored tradition and classes celebrate together every five years in May. It is a time for alumnae to reconnect, enjoy time together, hear from President Allen at the State of the College address, and have class meetings. The Office of Alumnae Relations takes great pride in putting together a fun weekend for all to enjoy.
When classes celebrate their 50th reunion, they mark the occasion by making a significant gift to their alma mater.
How It Works
The class meetings at Reunion Weekend are the chance for the 45th reunion class gift agents to present the process by which they will decide on a $250,000, 50th reunion gift to Meredith. In the spring before Reunion Weekend, class gift agents meet with Institutional Advancement staff and discuss the goal of the project, timeline, and possible projects, and the gift agents select classmates to serve on a committee to organize the project.
After Reunion, the committee finalizes several project options and holds a virtual class meeting to present the options. The class then votes for their favorite option and has one week to place their vote. The project choice is announced and fundraising begins, asking classmates to commit to a five-year pledge and/or annual cash gifts. At their 50th reunion, the class presents a fully-funded class gift to Meredith.
The 50th reunion gift program formally started in 2016 with the Class of 1971. Each class since has committed to working together to find a gift that will have a lasting impact at Meredith.
“It is definitely a class effort, starting with the gift agents putting a committee together and engaging their entire class to pool their money for the betterment of the College,” said Kim McCall Whitley, ’85, reunion gift officer with Institutional Advancement. “It has been a joy to see these classes reunite and pick projects they are passionate about and know will make a real difference.”
The class gifts that have been established or that are in process show the commitment each class has to raising $250,000 and improving the Meredith community in some way.
Given the success of the projects so far, Meredith staff plans to continue working with each class beginning at their 45th reunion to help them establish a 50th reunion project selected by the class. This new tradition has not only brought transformative gifts to the College but also served to bring classmates together as they approach this special time with their college friends.
The Class of 1971 is raising money to support the Lillian Parker Wallace Lecture Series which seniors established their final year as they promised continued support for the fund with their alumnae gifts. The purpose of the Wallace fund is to bring speakers of renown to enrich the experience of Meredith’s students and engage the broader community. Wallace lectures are presented by persons of singular achievement, at the pinnacle of their fields, and recognized far and wide for their insight and impact. Past speakers include former Prime Minister of Great Britain The Right Honorable Sir Harold Wilson, former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, Associate Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Sandra Day O’Connor, Nobel Laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, 2003 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Shirin Ebadi, 2004 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Wangari Maathai, 1997 Nobel Peace Prize recipient Jody Williams, and most recently U.S. Supreme Court Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg in 2019.
“The Class of ’71 has been committed to our project for the past 51 years – and counting. With the 50th reunion project, we challenged ourselves to raise $250,000, and we have raised almost $350,000 to place the principal of the endowment at over $1 million. At our 50th reunion, we again challenged ourselves to raise at least $250,000 before our next reunion in 2026.”
“We’d like the campus community to know that we said when we were seniors that our intent was to bring attention to Meredith’s strong academic tradition and, in some way, to enhance it, and we hope, 50+ years on, that we have achieved that. The Wallace Lecture is planned with the intent of offering an academically significant, memorable, even life-molding event and an opportunity to welcome a wider audience to the campus. Now that the pandemic has loosened its grip, we look forward to planning our next lecture and bringing another inspiring speaker to this college generation and the community.”
Class Gift Agents Mary Stuart Parker Alderman, ’71, and Anne Bryan, ’71
The Class of 1972’s 50th reunion project is to enhance the Class of 1972 Scholarship Endowment it established in 1988. The scholarship endowment supports students with financial need; for example, it could help retain students in good academic standing who experience financial hardship while attending Meredith. When it was established in 1988, the scholarship was a way for the class to express a commitment to a Meredith education and show students how they care for and support them.
Since the scholarship was started, 122 donors have supported the endowment with a gift, 16 students have benefitted (many of them multiple years), and $38,811 has been awarded in total. The student’s award for the 2020-21 academic year was $4,144. The size of the scholarship award given to a student is significantly increasing each year as a result of generous and ongoing investments from 1972 classmates. As the principal of the endowment increases, the scholarship award increases.
“Our class had committed to a scholarship soon after graduation. At our 45th reunion, with help from the Meredith Institutional Advancement Office, we recommitted to this opportunity to give back to Meredith and its students along with an updated and inspiring goal. Our class would like for the Meredith community to know that our scholarship goal is to provide financial assistance to all students in good standing, regardless of grade point average, who want to return to Meredith, who otherwise, for family reversals or other financial reasons, might not be able to attend. This goal has inspired increased giving and a more immediate connection to campus life for our class.”
Class Gift Agent Nancy Barnhill Aycock ’72
The Class of 1973 50th reunion gift is supporting an endowment fund for the Dickson Garden and campus beautification fund. The money raised will provide for a sustainability coordinator/gardener position at Meredith. This new position will increase the staff of the Grounds Department, which manages Meredith’s 200+ acre campus. The new position will manage the campus composting initiative. Full in-house composting will save the College at least $12,000 annually. The new staff position will also generate revenue through sales of the Meredith Hues Iris, and funds raised would be invested into the principal of the endowment to contribute to future staffing needs for campus beautification.
“One of the aspects of Meredith College that is cherished by all of us who love our alma mater is the extraordinary beauty of the campus. For many potential members of the community, the campus is one of the first things that draws them to Meredith.”
“The Class of 1973 views the campus beautification project as a way we can be good stewards of our world while helping Meredith College maintain a beautiful environment. We hope our Class of 1973 project will bring joy and happiness to the lives of all those who attend Meredith and everyone who works there or visits the campus. This is a way we can make our love of and devotion to Meredith visible and say ‘welcome home’ to students and alumnae.”
These improvements for Athletics will help Meredith to recruit top athletes, expand its number of teams, position Meredith to host conference tournaments that will bring revenue and exposure to Meredith, and support academics.
“When the Class of 1974 was presented with the challenge of raising $250,000 by our 50th reunion, we knew we wanted to select one of the College’s greatest needs. We all remembered that Weatherspoon was new when we were students! We saw the positive impact of the replacement of the pool with the modern Lowery Fitness Center (funded by our classmate!). We heard details of equipment and facility improvements badly needed to support our student-athletes. All of these factors led us to support Meredith Athletics! We believe our gift represents the commitment and spirit of the Class of 1974. We are thrilled to offer our support to these student-athletes. Our gift will benefit the college in the areas of retention and recruitment and will provide a lasting impact on the quality of our athletic programs.”
Class Gift Agent Judy Williams, ’74
“The Class of 1975 was drawn to the idea of making a lasting gift to the College that would address a need that likely will only grow in years to come — the Chaplain’s Fund/Student Emergency Fund. It is important to remember that our giving project was decided during the fall of 2020 and spring of 2021 when the pandemic challenged Meredith’s campus life and educational process with remote learning. The administration and faculty, as we knew they would, proved they were up to the challenge, but the needs of some students, such as unexpected medical bills, a necessary flight home, limited money for food or gas, assistance with off-campus housing, were highlighted by the situation.”
“We learned about the Chaplain’s Fund and were presented with many examples of how the current limited funds are being used to help students. Knowing that situations such as these can impact a student’s well-being and her ability to be successful in school, we wanted this fund to provide a secure, confidential lifeline to resources. We would like the community to know that we welcome anyone to give to this endowment for the long-term benefit of Meredith students. Gifts large or small can help make a tremendous impact on the lives of individual students who may have nowhere else but the College to turn for help in an emergency. We want Meredith College, as often as possible, to be able to help these students.”
Class Gift Agent Sherri McGee, ‘75
Several members of the Class of 1976 were privileged to study abroad with Dr. Roger Crook over 40 years ago. The College’s program has now expanded to offer both semester and summer programs in 17 different options for 2022, and the experiences are still led by Meredith faculty. Meredith’s signature program is in Sansepolcro, Italy, where the College has been a part of the community for 30 years. Since 2009 the Meredith program has occupied a renovated 16th-century palazzo in the heart of this Tuscan town. Meredith also has programs all over the world.
Meredith’s study abroad programs are the reason many students choose to attend Meredith, but funding is unfortunately the main obstacle preventing some from participating. The Class of 1976 wants to change that and give more students an opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad.
“During the presentation on study abroad, we heard from a student who represented this program so well and how it impacted her life. We learned how this program encourages students to apply to Meredith, hoping to have the experience of a lifetime. The videos gave us an even clearer picture of the opportunities available for Meredith students to make them global citizens.”
“It is important to give back to our alma mater that has given each of us experiences to grow and become the strong women that we are today. It is a message to all current students that alumnae want to support them in their experiences while at Meredith. It sets an example for students to embrace giving back and supporting this wonderful college long after they leave. It is our legacy that will remain long after we are gone.”
Co-class Gift Agent Amy Garber Byrd, ‘76