The constant patter of rain couldn’t dampen the smiles or spirits of community members who gathered on Friday afternoon in a tent on the Science Center lawn to eat, drink, and dance in celebration of the public launch of a $450 million comprehensive campaign that will be known as Changing Lives, Changing the World.
If the name sounds familiar, that’s because it was also the theme of President Valerie Smith’s inauguration. “The name perfectly captures the power of a Swarthmore education,” she says. “We’re now embracing it as the theme of the comprehensive campaign that celebrates and enhances the extraordinary, transformative dimensions of the Swarthmore experience.”
Board of Managers Chair Tom Spock ’78 welcomed hundreds of students, faculty, staff, alumni, and friends to the cozy community celebration: a joyful event where attendees enjoyed bowls of fresh-made guacamole, the scent of multicolored roses, and the music of Alô Brasil featuring Alex Shaw ’00. Kids licked ice cream cones, friends old and new greeted each other, and even mascot Phineas the Phoenix made an appearance at the standing-room-only party.
“Three years ago the College celebrated its first 150 years,” Spock remarked. “Today we celebrate our future—a future that will rely on the comprehensive campaign that we are embarking on today.” That future will be made possible through the participation and generosity of the community. With the campaign now public, there will be ample opportunity for all members of the Swarthmore community to experience the joy of giving back as a participatory, collaborative effort.
"We are here to celebrate the limitless potential that emerges when you bring Swatties together,” said Smith. “We are here to celebrate the spirit of discovery and service and resilience when minds meet in the living laboratory of our campus. We are here to celebrate the love of learning that extends from classrooms to performance halls to athletic fields."
With support from the Swarthmore community, the College will be able to realize a vision for its future that is captured in the campaign’s four key themes. Members of the campus community spoke about those themes at the celebration:
- Connecting the Liberal Arts focuses on extending the power of the liberal arts by bridging and coupling disciplines and connecting the classroom to the world. With $100 million slated for this priority, Swarthmore intends to endow professorships, continue to underwrite faculty research, and strengthen its position as a leading liberal arts college by creating opportunities for students to learn and develop skills in settings beyond the classroom. Engineering Chair Carr Everbach shared a story about Gabriel Perez-Putnam ’18. “Gabe is majoring in engineering and minoring in economics, but he is in Cape Town, South Africa now attending Swarthmore’s Environmental Study Abroad program. There is no doubt that Gabe’s future successes will depend on his ability to think across disciplinary boundaries. Our students will continue to solve human problems with the insights they gain from interdisciplinary thinking at Swarthmore.”
- Building a More Inclusive Community devotes $130 million to fostering an environment in which all students can flourish and engage with ideas and experiences that differ from their own. Of that amount, $100 million will allow Swarthmore to continue its values-driven policies of need-blind admissions and financial aid in the form of grants rather than loans. This priority also calls for expanded student support services and increased capacity for the Dean’s Discretionary Fund, established in January, which helps low-income students meet unanticipated expenses such as out of pocket medical expenses, travel for family emergencies or interviews, and costs associated with unpaid internships. “For us to build this truly inclusive community," said Associate Dean of Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Development T. Shá Duncan Smith, “we need the resources to do it.”
- Enhancing our Social Impact embraces Swarthmore’s longstanding tradition of contributing to the common good. A $70 million investment will strengthen support for the myriad ways in which students and faculty make a difference in the world, including sustainability research and advocacy, social responsibility and innovation, entrepreneurship, and civic engagement. “When I was in the high school orchestra, [I] had to sell oranges and grapefruits door to door [and] felt that people were only buying my citrus because they were my parents’ friends,” said Executive Director of the Lang Center for Civic & Social Responsibility and Associate Professor of Political Science Ben Berger. “I believe in this campaign, I believe in our product: our collective enlightenment. I know you do, too, and I know you, like me, are both proud and humble to be a part of it.”
- Creating Vital Spaces brings $150 million in new and renewed infrastructure to campus to enhance the academic mission and support healthy and productive co-curricular activities. After earning cheers for his special announcement—“I’ve never done this before so I wanted to say hi to my mom!”—Student Philanthropy Council Co-Chair and Phoenix Editor Bobby Zipp ’18 explained, “In this campaign, Swarthmore is looking carefully at how campus spaces support the student experience.” He cited the Matchbox fitness center which was completed in 2014, as well as work underway on a new residence hall at the south of campus. Future projects include the Biology-Engineering-Psychology building and the renovation of Sproul Observatory for the James Hormel-Michael Nguyen Intercultural Center.
To date, the College has already raised $253 million in gifts and pledges toward the overall $450 million goal. Campaign Chair Gil Kemp ’72 said, “This success includes gifts of all sizes, and campaigns like ours need everyone’s involvement to succeed.”
At the launch celebration on Friday, Sarah Anne Tupchong ’17, a pre-med biology major from Lafayette Hill, Pa. and co-chair of the Student Philanthropy Council, spoke about the personal impact of giving. “I’ve been afforded many opportunities that have shaped my Swarthmore experience,” she explained. “Last year, I received a generous Swarthmore Summer Research Fellowship grant, which allowed me to attend an intensive opera program in Florence, Italy. This experience is just one of many that would not have been possible without the generosity of others.”
Tupchong also announced a worldwide challenge open to all Swarthmore alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends. On April 26, 2017, beginning at noon Eastern Daylight Time, a 1,864-minute countdown will begin. If 1,864 people make a gift in any amount during that time—one donor per minute until 7:04 p.m. EDT the following day—an anonymous member of the Board of Managers and spouse will donate $1 million to Swarthmore. The special number is a nod to the year of the College’s founding and a reminder of the more-than-150 years of liberal arts excellence that will be strengthened by Changing Lives, Changing the World.
Amid the cupcakes and the camaraderie, smiling beneath the glowing projection of the campaign’s logo designed by Phillip Stern ’84, President Smith said she’s excited about Swarthmore’s future direction and the opportunity for every member of the Swarthmore community to make a difference in realizing our shared goals. “It is an opportunity for alumni, families, and friends to express joyfully their support for the mission of the College and help move Swarthmore to the next level in its distinguished history.”
Learn more about the campaign at lifechanging.swarthmore.edu.