If people have had a hard time reaching the president of Eastern University this year, there’s a good explanation for it. Dr. David Black, president of Eastern University, has spent the 2007-2008 school year on, what fellow administrators are calling, a fundraising sabbatical.
While it is not uncommon for the university professors or administrators to take year-long sabbaticals, most sabbaticals are spent writing books or enjoying vacation time with family. However, President Black has chosen to use his sabbatical time to raise money for the further development of Eastern.
Eastern has recently been faced with financial problems. To satisfy the resident housing demand and the need for classroom space for Eastern’s graduate program, the university was forced to rent space off the main campus to meet these needs. The administration eventually decided that building units on campus that would house residents and give classroom space to the graduate program would be more cost effective.
Although Eastern always has a fundraising team working on raising money for the campus, the need for new buildings, along with some desired upgrades to other areas of campus, called for a fundraising quest by President Black.
“New buildings don’t pay for themselves,” said Bettie Ann Brigham, vice president of student development. “Residence halls pay for themselves from the occupant students paying room and board. However, to build a building for classrooms, money must be found elsewhere.”
Often, a large part of the building process is paid for by university alumni who donate money. However, the majority of Eastern’s alumni have been missionaries and pastors, two vocations that normally do not produce enough money to substantially give back to the university. It has only been of late that Eastern is finding alumni who are able and willing to donate money to the university.
Sometimes, from the perspective of the student, it is hard to see if university administration is making any progress in the improvement of the university. However, if students take notice, the progress President Black has made so far this year is clear.
This year’s fundraising has raised $600,000 in new gifts and has laid the ground work for donations totaling in $12 million dollars.
However, President Black’s efforts can be seen in more tangible ways. One of President Black’s goals is to keep the university’s tution low.
“I am concerned about the economy’s effect on students and their families. Part of my mission was to secure funds for scholarships,” President Black said in an email interview.
The $100,000 donation to the Cushing Center for Counseling and Academic Support and the recent purchase of the Mayer property are examples of President Black’s accomplishments this year. There are also plans to add a new science lab, “smart rooms” in McInnis and the hope of adding a performing arts facility to the campus sometime in the near future.
While President Black spent the first half of his sabbatical talking with individuals, the president will now be focusing on foundations that are legally required by law to give a percentage of their income away every year.
If students feel their voice isn’t heard in this process of change, Tom Ridington, senior vice president, claims that’s not true.
“The leadership and board must be behind [a plan] for it to reach its full potential,” says Ridington, who is handling President Black’s affairs while he’s away. “But students are the squeaky wheels.”