Family Campaign: Community + Opportunity = BGSU

Higher education is priceless, but for some students the cost of a book, or a babysitter, can be the roadblock that stops them from reaching their goal. At the Family Campaign kickoff yesterday (Feb. 19), representatives heard from a number of students and faculty about how support from private giving has made all the difference in their lives.

The annual effort by faculty, staff and retirees has raised nearly $11 million since its inception, much of it through gifts of under $50, said President Mary Ellen Mazey. The campaign will run through June 30. Any gifts made by employees or retirees to any area of the University will count toward the total. Instead of the amount given, what is important is the level of participation, Mazey said, encouraging the community to reach the 51 percent participation level.

Illustrating this year’s theme of “Community + Opportunity = BGSU,” Michelle Simmons, assistant vice president for enrollment management, recounted how, in her former position at the Career Center, employees decided to contribute about the cost of a “fancy” cup of coffee to the Family Campaign each paycheck, designated for student employees.

“In that case, a few people making a committed donation created a scholarship,” Simmons said.

Even a small scholarship can make the difference between a student’s being able to continue a semester or not, echoed Dr. William Balzer, vice president for faculty affairs and strategic initiatives and dean of BGSU Firelands College. Balzer told of a former Firelands student who showed great promise but could not afford the textbook. “That was my ‘ah ha’ moment,” Balzer said, when he realized he, too, would not have been able to achieve what he had without the support of many other donors, both public and private.

Balzer said an anonymous quotation on a wall of the Bobst Library at his alma mater, New York University, has been the touchstone for his commitment to University giving: “He who sustains learning lights a lamp for future generations and he shall live forever in the hearts of those yet to come.”

“Advisers, support staff, custodial staff —we all have a role to play in sustaining learning,” Balzer said.

Over the years, through good economic times and bad, the BGSU community has pooled its resources to support its students and the programs that are important to their education, said Dr. Lee Meserve, Distinguished Teaching Professor of Biological Sciences. “In that way we can replace the vacuum of state support that’s happened since I came here in fall of ’73,” Meserve said, “and keep the flow of young people coming to BGSU and help prepare them for the next step in their lives.”

After all, he added, it’s they who keep us challenged and inspired and “every one of them keeps us young.”

Area representatives will distribute contribution forms and answer questions from fellow employees. Donors may direct their gifts to any department, program or area of the University or to scholarships. Payroll deduction is available as are gifts by check or credit card. Visit the Family Campaign website for more information.