Historic Forever Orange campaign comes to an end


Josephine Moore

On Saturday May 7, the Forever Orange Gala was hosted for Alumni, Faculty and students to celebrate Baker’s largest and most successful fundraiser in history.

On May 7, Baker University celebrated the conclusion of the Forever Orange Campaign, which has been described as Baker’s “most ambitious fundraising campaign” to date. The Forever Orange Gala in Kansas City, MO hosted over 380 attendees, including various alumni, donors, faculty, staff and students.

Launched in 2016, the campaign worked to provide funds for six established priorities including the Baker Fund, endowed and planned gifts, endowed professorships, scholarships, student experiences and technology and capital projects. The Baker Fund is a $7 million unrestricted account for the university to support its “most critical needs and greatest strengths.”

According to Danielle Jones Rease, vice president of advancement and enrollment manager,  “[The Baker Fund] can be used to meet the university’s most pressing needs whether that is providing additional student support in the form of scholarships, investing in other forms of student-focused projects, support of faculty, and support needed for student living spaces and classrooms.”

The majority of the event was held in the ballroom. A three-course dinner was served alongside a program detailing the success of the campaign. (Josephine Moore)

“What I love about the campaign priorities is the holistic approach to providing our students with a premier educational experience,” President Dr. Lynne Murray explained at the Gala.

The initial goal of the campaign was set for $20 million and in 2018 Baker raised the goal to $28 million. Specifically, $340,000 was raised for the Baker Fund, $11 million for endowed scholarships and $5.6 million for planned gifts.

Campaign funding has also been allocated for facility improvements. Scott George, Associate Vice President of Capital Planning, Facilities and Emergency Management, said that three facilities projects have been a part of the Forever Orange Campaign over the past five years: Rice Auditorium, Joliffee Hall and the Baker Builds Champions initiative.

In 2017, Rice Auditorium was renovated to improve the sound system, flooring and seating as a part of the Forever Orange Campaign. Similarly this year, Jolliffe Hall is undergoing the design phase during its transition into a new building for the Applied Health Sciences Department.

The Forever Orange Campaign has also made significant progress in renovating athletic facilities. The Baker Builds Champions project is a three-phase initiative to improve athletics facilities on the Baldwin City campus. The project is estimated to cost over $17 million with plans to upgrade Collins Gym and improve and expand outdoor facilities such as the baseball, softball and soccer fields.

At the Gala, President Murray announced the campaign’s final total amount raised of $41,321,173. President Murray expressed her excitement regarding the success of the campaign and the Gala itself.

A golf package, arts package, sports fan package and vacation package are sold to the highest bidder. (Josephine Moore)

“It was a long time coming, and I think especially after the last two years that have been so challenging, it is so good to reconnect with this community that is generous to our students and to our future,” Murray said.

The campaign officially ends on June 30, which is the end of the fiscal year.

The campaign was led by Jones Rease and co-chaired by Baker alumni Diane and Murray Blackwelder and Connie and Gary Sollars. As major gift officer, Associate Director of Development Phil Hannon was tasked with aspects of the donor development cycle, including identifying donors and then cultivating and soliciting gifts.

Hannon said the Office of Development and Alumni Relations and the marketing staff worked with the Forever Orange Steering committee and subcommittee leads to work out all the details of the Gala, including the invitations, program, dinner menu, decorations, live auction and live band.

“[The Gala] is an opportunity to say thank you to the Baker community for their continued support of this great institution,” Hannon said.

Associate Professor of English, Dr. Joanne Janssen speaks about being named as the Swogger Humanities professor. This endowed professorship was created to support literature, history, philosophy and religion. (Josephine Moore)

A three-course dinner was served to guests, followed by a program to showcase the effects of fundraising at the university. Four students gave testimonials about their appreciation for scholarships and capital projects that have come to fruition because of Forever Orange donations. Dr. Erin Morris, chair of the department of biology and chemistry and Dr. Joanne Janssen, associate professor of English, each spoke of endowed professorships and improvements to the student experience and campus technology.

As well as the final total from the campaign, an auction was held during the Gala to raise additional funds for Baker scholarships. The auction raised $13,900.

Professor of Psychology Dr. Sara Crump was blown away by the goals the campaign achieved.

Seniors Jaila Randle, Payton Johnson, Sydney Upton and Kira Horn share a happy moment together after the total amount raised for the campaign was revealed. (Josephine Moore)

“I am astounded and excited about the amount of money that was raised in the end. That was really cool,” Crump said.

Senior Payton Johnson, a student attendee, felt pride in the student representation at the Gala.

“It was important for students to be at the Gala, just to see the overwhelming support that we have from our donors and sponsors. It was so beautiful to get to experience that,” Johnson said. “It means so much because I am a recipient of so many different scholarships, so getting to see that firsthand was really amazing.”

Jones Rease, who has worked on the campaign for the last six years, is excited about what was accomplished.

“I am proud of the Baker community for making the impossible possible through this campaign and I am excited to continue to watch firsthand the impact of the gifts that so many contributed,” Jones Rease said. “I am grateful to have played this small role in history through the campaign.”