At the Saturday night 50th reunion banquet during Homecoming 2014, members of the Class of 1964 raised a glass of wine bottled in 1964, compliments of Warren Culpepper, and celebrated their lives as Sewanee alumni for fifty years. The common report: the wine was pretty good. More important, along the way, the Class had worked hard to ensure that current and future Sewanee students have access to outstanding place-based education through the “Finding Your Place” first-year program. The class raised gifts and pledges totaling over $500,000 to endow the first-year program.
“I heard about the Finding Your Place program through my service on the Parents’ Council,” said Chris Kirchen, C’64, one of the leading advocates for the project.
“Each year, the 50th Reunion Class picks a special project,” said Terri Griggs Williams, C’81, who coordinated the reunion gift. “Some years, they start a scholarship; some years a building or a room in a building. This year’s class was really taken with FYP.”
“A number of our class members didn’t think that a room was the way to go,” Kirchen said. “So we wanted to think about a way of supporting programs. As a person in business, I love the Babson Center, but that would not resonate with lawyers and doctors and others. FYP gave us a project everyone could get behind.”
“When I first heard about it, I really thought it was something I wish I had experienced,” said Kirchen. “Just this year at homecoming was the first time I had driven down to Sherwood or down Jumpoff Road. I just didn’t know that much about the Domain, its history, its geography and geology, and the surrounding areas. I think that’s so important.
Kirchen also was drawn to the connection between FYP and early-career advising, noting that his own advisor, Scott Bates, was a great person but since Chris was not a French major, the advice could have been more appropriate. “The advisor connection is really significant,” he said. “Knowing that your FYP instructor will be your advisor as you begin your college career is really important.”
Kirchen credits Joe Winkelmann and Gresh Lattimore with superb leadership on the campaign. Altogether 31 members of the class of 1964 made a gift or pledge toward the total of just over $500,000 raised, ranging from $100 to $100,000. And class members contributed in other ways, too. Hill Ferguson supplied hand knitted scarves to every donor who contributed $10,000 or more and Kirchen produced a CD “Book of Memories.” Some class members not only supported the class project, but contributed to other projects, such as the Sewanee Inn or the golf course or scholarships, and many made these gifts in addition to their regular annual fund gifts.
“We realize that it will take much more funding to make sure that as many Sewanee students as possible have the opportunity to experience FYP,” said Kirchen. “We would love to challenge other classes to contribute to the project as well. What about the Class of 1965?”
Members of the Class of 1964 (and anyone else) can still make gifts and pledges to the’64 Endowment for FYP. Planned gifts can also be designated for the fund. For more information , contact Terri Williams at 800.367.1179.