Other Campuses: Seniors donate at record rate

By The Chronicle

(U-WIRE) DURHAM, N.C. – The Class of 2005 is just weeks away from graduating and leaving the Gothic Wonderland. But before they go, this year’s seniors are being asked to give a last bit of cash to Duke University.

Thus far, 484 students – about 30 percent of the Class of 2005 – have each contributed $20.05 to the Duke Annual Fund. Only 250 seniors had donated by this time last year.

“Most Duke students have had a pretty good time here, and it’s all about giving back to Duke” said senior Anthony Vitarelli, outgoing Campus Council president and co-chair of the Senior Gift Committee.

The Senior Gift Committee comprises 91 seniors led by Vitarelli and Rachel Decker. Since starting its campaign a few weeks ago, the committee has sent out e-mails and talked with seniors in person to solicit contributions, Vitarelli said.

All proceeds for the gift are funneled directly to the Duke Annual Fund, which is an unrestricted account available for use by deans and directors that goes to expenses that tuition does not cover. These expenses include FOCUS programs, financial aid, classroom equipment, faculty support and information technology.

Heather Bennett, director of the Duke Annual Fund Young Alumni Program, credited the high yield of this year’s campaign to the committee’s terrific effort in leading the drive.

“The Class of 2005 has tremendous unity and a genuine sense of gratitude for their Duke experience, evident by the success of the campaign so far,” Bennett wrote in an e-mail.

Although the campaign will not conclude until the end of the fiscal year June 30, the next few weeks before graduation are crucial as seniors prepare to leave Duke, Vitarelli said.

The committee made a big push for contributions last week during the University’s annual Senior Week, which includes several events honoring each year’s graduating class.

In addition to a poker tournament, a Durham Bulls baseball game and a climb to the top of the Duke Chapel, seniors attended a barbecue hosted by President Richard Brodhead and his wife in the Intramural Building.

Brodhead presented the senior class’ fund with a check for $20.05 and challenged them to reach their goal of 60 percent participation. If they hit the mark, Brodhead said he would change his contribution to $2,005.

At the barbecue, seniors also received their parting gifts: Class of 2005 blankets.

Students who contribute to the Senior Gift will have their name engraved on a plaque in the Alumni Lounge.

Senior Adi Castillo cited the plaque as her primary motivation for giving money for the gift, but she added that the contribution is also a good first step for future alumni who plan on donating to the University.

After finishing graduate school, Castillo plans to make donations in support of Latino scholarships.

– Elizabeth McCoy