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WKU fundraising unit changes name, announces award, recognizes gift

  • Author: Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement
  • Author: Wednesday, November 15th, 2017

As part of a National Philanthropy Day celebration Nov. 15 at WKU's Augenstein Alumni Center, the Division of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement made several announcements. (WKU photo by Clinton Lewis)

WKU’s Division of Development & Alumni Relations, the advancement arm of the University, revealed its name change and rebranding as Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement on Wednesday (Nov. 15), National Philanthropy Day. Additionally, Laura Turner Dugas was named the 2017 Philanthropist of the Year and a gift from alumni George and CJ Nichols to support diversity initiatives was announced.

The Division of Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement includes the Office of Philanthropy (formerly the Office of Development), the Office of Alumni Engagement (formerly the Office of Alumni Relations), and Advancement Services. The Office of Philanthropy will be known externally as WKU Philanthropy, and the Office of Alumni Engagement will be known externally as WKU Alumni. The WKU Alumni Association name and brand will continue to represent the member-based organization and its work under the leadership of its National Board of Directors.

Recognizing that the Office of Development name has often caused confusion, administrators hope Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement will both clarify and highlight the critical role private support now plays for higher education.

“This name change will more clearly define our mission to be donor-centered and foster lifelong engagement. It also best clarifies what we do as professionals and eliminates confusion with other development-related functions of the University,” said John Paul Blair, Interim Vice President for Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement.

“We are well positioned as a student-centered applied research university to take a leadership role in the national conversation around the value of higher education. Private support is truly a critical part of that dialogue,” said WKU President Timothy C. Caboni. “This isn’t simply a name change. This signals to our donors, our philanthropists, how important they are to the life of this University and that we recognize their generous spirit.”

“By connecting all types of support to ‘philanthropy,’ we will create opportunities for every donor to be a philanthropist,” Blair said. “Every gift is important, and every gift has a far-reaching impact. Becoming Philanthropy & Alumni Engagement helps create a new culture of private investment in and engagement with our University.”

The shift of Alumni Relations to Alumni Engagement also highlights a new focus on how to best meet the needs of WKU alumni. “This move reflects our purpose of engaging alumni in meaningful ways that strengthen their lifelong relationship with WKU,” said Dr. Anthony McAdoo, Executive Director of the WKU Alumni Association. 

First recognized in 1986 when then-President Ronald Reagan proclaimed Nov. 15 as National Philanthropy Day, this day of both recognition and celebration of the power of philanthropy served as an ideal time to announce the Division’s name change.

“National Philanthropy Day represents an opportunity to acknowledge those who invest in our community, our region, the Commonwealth of Kentucky and ultimately our nation and the world,” President Caboni said. “What better way to honor all of those individuals, businesses, corporations, foundations and civic organizations that have made the decision to support WKU. We are incredibly thankful for their support and look forward to continuing to build strong relationships that will transform the lives of our students and elevate all members of our community.”

In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, WKU surpassed its previous record of private support in a fiscal year with a new high of $36.3 million. The total is a more than 20 percent increase from the University’s previous record of $30.2 million. This 2016-2017 total includes gifts from more than 14,000 donors from all 50 states and seven countries who made more than 31,000 individual gifts supporting 745 different initiatives benefiting faculty, staff and students across all the WKU campuses.

Dugas Named Philanthropist of The Year

Laura Turner Dugas was honored as the 2017 WKU Philanthropist of the Year during the Nov. 15 event.

Laura Turner Dugas is the daughter of Cal Turner, the founder of Dollar General, Inc., which was originally established in Scottsville. She has served as the head of the Laura Goad Turner Foundation since its inception in 1989. The Foundation has gifted more than $2 million to WKU in scholarship support through four different funds.

In addition to the generous gifts from the Laura Goad Turner Charitable Foundation, Laura Turner Dugas and her late husband, Wayne Dugas, made a generous financial commitment to forge a unique partnership with WKU in the development of Dugas Community Park in Scottsville. Through their significant support, students and faculty from Allen County Schools and Western Kentucky University are provided oppportunities for applied learning and creative academic experiences in a real-world environment.  

“I am excited about the possibilities that exist for applied learning opportunities in collaboration with Dugas Community Park. We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the Dugas Family,” President Caboni said. “Laura Jo and her family have supported numerous worthwhile causes throughout the region and changed many lives with their philanthropy. We are so pleased to honor her as the 2017 WKU Philanthropist of the Year.”

“For more than 30 years, Western Kentucky University has proven to be a trusted philanthropic partner for three generations of my family,” said Laura Turner Dugas. “That makes this a very special honor for us.”

Previous recipients of the WKU Philanthropist of the Year Award are C.M. “Bill” Gatton, Linda and John M. Kelly, Houchens Industries Inc., Dale Augenstein, Dorris “D.B.” and Lula Burchett, Dixie and Pete Mahurin, Rick and Ann Guillaume, Donald J. and Jennifer Waddle Greulich, Suzanne Vitale, Jerry E. Baker, Lowell Guthrie, Bud Layne, Don S. Vitale, Leon Page, Gordon Ford, and Raymond B. and Hattie Preston and the Preston Family Foundation.

Alumni Make Gift to Support Diversity Initiatives

It was also announced that George and CJ Nichols, both WKU alumni, have made a gift to support diversity initiatives at WKU.

Recognizing that WKU student support systems currently provide an array of student and instructional services striving to meet the needs of students, research shows that high-impact practices, such as additional support services, would provide frequent and individual contact for all students needing additional assistance which can dramatically increase the rate at which these students remain in college, matriculate and graduate. Students identified as domestic minorities, first-generation, low-income and academically at-risk can particularly benefit from additional resources and attention.

Many students arrive with and encounter other non-academic factors such as financial, cultural, social and personal problems, which can also have an adverse effect on their postsecondary achievement. To address these issues and offer these much needed services, the Nichols’ gift will support programming within the Intercultural Student Engagement Center Academy (ISEC-Academy).

“We met when we were both students at WKU, and the University certainly helped pave the way for our success in life,” said George and CJ Nichols. “As we were first-generation minority students ourselves, we are grateful to be able to share our blessings to support the Intercultural Student Engagement Center, which supports the recruitment, retention and graduation of underrepresented WKU students.”

ISEC-Academy students may earn the distinction of being named a George and CJ Nichols Scholar upon reaching and maintaining certain criteria, including a 3.2 grade-point average.

“The overarching impact of the gift is access and student success, including but not limited to, opportunities otherwise not afforded, retention, persistence, graduation and career readiness as well as leadership and civic development,” said Dr. Martha Sales, Executive Director of the Intercultural Student Engagement Center. “Funding will be used to support the ISEC-Academy Student and Family Orientation weekend activities, student scholarships, celebratory events and social, cultural and financial competency workshops.”

A portion of the gift is included in the Nichols’ estate plans and will be used to establish the Cynthia and George Nichols III Endowed Fund for Diversity Support. The Fund will be used to supplement the ISEC-Academy and to offer study abroad scholarship opportunities, financial literacy programming, marketing or scholarships for education majors from underrepresented groups participating in SKyTeach, and marketing for The Gatton Academy of Mathematics and Science to attract under-represented students.

“We encourage other alumni to seek out programs they can feel passionate about and to help other students achieve their dreams,” said the Nichols. “Our parents taught us that only what you do for others will last.”

George Nichols, a 1983 WKU graduate, was appointed to WKU’s Board of Regents by Gov. Matt Bevin in 2017. In addition to his role as a Regent, he has served on the WKU Board of Advisors since 2010, and he was a member of the WKU Foundation Board of Trustees from 2003 to 2011. He is Senior Vice President in the Office of Governmental Affairs for New York Life Insurance Company. He served as Kentucky Commissioner of Insurance and Special Advisor to Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton and also as Executive Director of the Kentucky Health Policy Board during the Patton Administration.

CJ Nichols is a 1982 WKU graduate. They have three children and reside near Washington, D.C.

Contact: John Paul Blair, (270) 745-6208

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