Historic Campaign: Claflin University Raises Nearly $90 Million

Historic Tingley Memorial Hall (Front), on the campus of Claflin University.
Historic Tingley Memorial Hall (Front), Claflin University.

Claflin University announced on March 19th that it has exceeded its phase one capital campaign goal, raising nearly $90 million –  the largest amount raised in the history of the University. The funds have been used to build the endowment, strengthen academic programs and enhance facilities.

“When we launched the campaign, we were focused on making a strong university even stronger. We wanted to bolster Claflin’s capacity to serve as a resource for the state of South Carolina,” said Dr. Henry N. Tisdale, president at Claflin University. “This campaign is unique. It is big. It is the most ambitious campaign in the history of the University.”

The overall goal for the Campaign for Claflin University is $96.4 million, with an $80 million Phase One goal. To date, a staggering $89.6 million has been raised to achieve the University’s vision.

“It is bold, but we believe that the founding of the University was bold. In 1869, it took quite an imagination for those founders to believe that they could establish a degree-granting University to educate the newly freed slaves in the state of South Carolina. Therefore, we could do no less to try to continue achieving the dreams and the ambitions of the founders of the University. We’re just continuing to imagine and continuing to build on that vision for this great University.”

The campaign’s success can be attributed, in large part, to the generosity of Claflin University’s inner family – its Board of Trustees, Board of Visitors, alumni, administrators, faculty, staff, students and parents – which has contributed more than $19 million so far to the Campaign. One hundred percent of the trustees have given over the life of the campaign, and some 87 percent of alumni have done so.

“I have had the honor and privilege of serving on Claflin’s Board of Trustees for over 14 years and I have never been part of a more high-performing board,” said Paul Fant, chair of the Board of Trustees. “Together, we have given our time, talents and treasure to help make this campaign a success and we have done so not just because of our duties or obligations as board members, we have done so because of our belief in this great institution and the promise that it holds for the future of our state, nation and world.”

An astonishing 98 percent of Claflin’s administrators, faculty and staff have donated to the cause.  The student body has surpassed its original $100,000 goal, raising $162,438, and is well on its way to achieving a new goal of giving $200,000 to the capital campaign. Claflin parents are also an integral part of the campaign, having surpassed their original $50,000 goal.  They are closing in on a new goal of giving $100,000 to the capital campaign.

“This campaign was about individuals, and believing that those who were closest to the University would be willing to give first and give the most,” Tisdale said. “I think all who come to this University really share a vision and mission.”

Because of the fundraising efforts associated with the campaign, Claflin University made history in 2013 when it achieved a record 52.2 percent alumni giving rate – first among historically black colleges and universities and among the best in the nation, according to U.S. News and World Report.

“We have a culture of giving back on this campus – even among the students,” said Rev. Whittaker V. Middleton, vice president of Institutional Advancement. “That’s one of the reasons we have the highest alumni giving among HBCUs. A large number of our students are on some type of financial aid, but they are taught that if someone has helped you, then you must help someone else.”

There have also been a number of tremendous gifts from businesses and individuals who are not a part of Claflin’s inner family, including a $4.35 million gift from Sodexo Campus Services – the corporation that provides integrated food and facilities management services for Claflin – to support student scholarships, enhance facilities, and promote health and wellness on campus. Also, famed financier, philanthropist and South Carolina native Darla D. Moore donated $1,000,000 for the University’s Department of Music through The Rainwater Charitable Foundation.

“We’re not asking for a handout– we’re asking people to invest,” Middleton continued. “In this campaign we have received 15 gifts of one million dollars or more compared to five in the last campaign. People want to invest in something that is growing, that is multiplying, that is showing fruits, and when they can see that in our students – in the way that they walk and their confidence, and the way that they talk and the jobs that they’re getting – people don’t mind making the investment.”

James Bennett, University trustee and chairman of the Campaign for Claflin University, said the secret is out about Claflin.

“I think they (campaign donors) discovered what we always knew – how great of an institution Claflin is,” he said. “When we started the campaign, the good news and the bad news was that Claflin is the best-kept secret. If nothing else, we wanted to eradicate the fact that Claflin was a secret. During the campaign, that’s what we strived to do – to tell the Claflin story.

“We’re raising money to take Claflin to another level, to invest in the future. We’re really taking it to another level of imagining the possibilities.”

Of the $89.6 million raised, $20,271,565 has gone to build the University’s endowment – offering students more financial aid support than ever before. The number of endowed scholarships at Claflin has doubled, from 100 to more than 200 scholarships offering support to deserving students. Additionally, some $1,685,877 has gone to endow faculty chairs and professorships to continue building a world-class faculty at the University.

Nearly $7,947,599 has gone to strengthen academic programs by way of much-need technology upgrades both in the classroom and throughout the campus. Claflin’s wireless access and smart classrooms campus-wide make its learning and living environment second-to-none. The University has also joined Internet2, providing its faculty and students the opportunity to connect and share research with major institutions, government entities and industry officials around the world.

Two of the most significant changes to the physical plant – Claflin’s new Molecular Science Research Center and the James and Dorothy Z. Elmore Chapel – are products of the capital campaign, as well. These additions were possible because of the $21,396,000 that has been donated for upgrading facilities at the University. The MSRC has not only been designated a core research facility by the South Carolina Research Authority, but it also houses a 700 megahertz NMR – nuclear magnetic resonance – which, until recently, was the only one of its kind in the state of South Carolina.

The work at Claflin University isn’t done. The completion of phase one simply segues into the campaign’s final stretch.

“It’s an unfinished agenda, but we will complete that agenda and exceed the $96.4 million goal. We know we’ll do it,” Tisdale said. “We hope to end this campaign in such a way that that next campaign will be a little easier and more believable when they launch that next campaign.”

“We must remain competitive. We cannot rest on our laurels. Every year, we want to do more, we want to be more, we want to have a greater impact in serving our state and the nation.”

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