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Senior Class Gift over $10,000, triple last year's

By Michelle Phillips     12/2/10 6:00pm

The 2011 Senior Class Gift competition broke all participation and giving records since its inception, with a total of $10,745.11 gathered from all 11 colleges, more than triple what was collected last year.The competition, part of the Rice Annual Fund Student Initiative, was open for seven weeks, from Oct. 4 to Nov. 24, during which time 515 seniors gave donations, the most in the history of the Senior Class Gift.

The money collected from the senior fund will be given to the Annual Fund to be used in a variety of places across campus, Associate Director of the Annual Fund Emily Kernan said. Often, she said, the Senior Gift subsidizes scholarships and financial aid, student research and residential college life, among other things.

"That way, the cost of education for Rice students is lower every year [than it would be otherwise]," Kernan said.

Each college had volunteers to organize and collect donations from the seniors. Kernan said this is also the first year that each college has had a challenger - an alumnus or alumna who gives money back to a specific college for every gift a senior at that college makes.

Kernan said having a challenger encourages seniors to donate, as they can use those funds in the spring semester.

Wiess College senior Lindsay Kirton, one of the volunteers, said seniors who were hesitant about giving were often convinced to give once they heard that Wiess would get $100 from their challenger in the spring for every gift.

The Senior Gift and the rest of the Annual Fund donations will be given to the Budget Office at the end of the fiscal year, June 30, 2011. Kernan said that this year's senior gift is one step on the way to meeting the Centennial Campaign's goal of an $8 million Annual Fund.

"The class of 2011 is just a fantastic class," Kernan said. "They love Rice, and they want to give back."

She added that all the volunteers at the colleges are passionate about what the Annual Fund wants to accomplish, which helped push things along.

Volunteers at Brown College said they tried to make giving as easy and convenient as possible for their fellow seniors. For example, Brown senior Kevin Schell put donation forms in each senior's mailbox.

"I personally feel that students want to give once they know the benefits and are in the right situation," Pierre Elias, another Brown senior volunteer, said.

Kirton and fellow Wiess senior volunteer Adrian Frimpong also went around to each senior's room to explain the Senior Gift and encourage them to give, Kirton said. She said they encouraged Wiess seniors to give $20.11 as their gift - to match their class year. The average gift was $20.86, so Kirton said it must have worked.

"Twenty dollars is a pretty hefty gift, especially for a graduating senior," Kirton said. "It's not just that we broke records, but people were giving meaningful gifts."

Wiess senior Kaitlin Smith said that having a challenger at Wiess was part of her decision to donate, as was her overall experience at the university.

"I chose to donate because I had a really good experience here at Rice," Smith said.

At Duncan College, however, senior volunteer Mallory Pierpoint said it was a challenge to get group cohesion among the seniors, since many had transferred for personal reasons and not to be involved in the college.

"A lot of people were really unresponsive," Pierpoint said.

Pierpoint said she did notice a direct correlation between involvement at Duncan and those who gave, though, and added that she hopes next year will be a good year.

While 67 percent of seniors gave on average across the colleges, only 29 and 17 percent of seniors from Duncan and McMurtry College gave, respectively.

The Senior Gift was started 10 years ago as a way for seniors to express their pride and appreciation for [their] education, according to its website. About three years ago, the Senior Gift became part of the Annual Fund.

Many other students from all classes are involved in the Annual Fund, Kernan said, but only seniors are asked directly to give a gift. According to Kernan, many other universities have been running a program similar to the Senior Gift for much longer.

In the spring semester, Kernan said the Annual Fund will be running a similar program in the College Battle, but this will include seniors and alumni. Next spring will also be the first time underclassmen will also be asked to participate in the Battle, she said.

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