February 14, 2006

Students party to bring in Class Gift bucks

Anyone walking into the Reynolds Club last Thursday would have thought a high school had taken over. Dozens of seniors took time off from B.A.s and applications to party like it was 2002 by celebrating the first U of C Senior Prom, organized by the 2006 Senior Class Gift Committee.

“We were waffling between a Battle of the Bands, Karaoke, or Prom,” said Fleming Ford, co-chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee. “We decided to combine the latter two, but our karaoke contact fell through, and on such a tight budget, we couldn’t rent one.”

Ford, along with Ben Walsh, also a fourth-year in the College, serve as co-chairs for the Senior Class Gift Committee. Ford said she was surprised by the high turnout, and thrilled that so many seniors were interested in donating.

With Valentine’s Day streamers juxtaposed against the dour paintings of former University presidents in Hutch Commons, seniors came out to devour the free food, get their pictures taken with a prom background, and groove to classic songs like Third-Eye Blind’s “Semi-Charmed Life.” Some excited seniors totally immersed themselves in the prom theme, wearing ballgowns, tiaras, or black feather boas.

“It’s not that we’re putting people to shame,” said Andrew Wille, a fourth-year in the College who came to the prom wearing a three-piece tuxedo with his girlfriend in a black cocktail dress. “We like to be hot as hell.”

The free prom marked the start of the senior class gift campaign this year. Since the Senior Gift Committee of 2002 gift to the College Fund, succeeding Senior Gift Committees have sought to increase gifts from outgoing seniors and also help raise the alumni giving rate of the University, which at 29 percent is one of the lowest rates among peer private universities.

Adam Niermann, the staff liaison from the Office of Annual Giving, said that over 150 fourth-years have given back so far this year, but an additional 500 seniors are needed to participate to reach the committee’s goal of gifts from 60 percent of the senior body.

According to Niermann, alumnus John Fyfe (AB ’68) will donate $25,000 if the Class of 2006 reaches 50 percent participation in giving to the College Fund, and University Trustee James Crown has pledged an additional $1,000 to the Senior Class Gift for every participation percentage point that the Class of 2006 exceeds the Class of 2005’s 58 percent participation rate.

“It is a show of appreciation and thanks to the institution that will soon be giving you your degree,” Niermann said. “The Senior Class Gift goes to the College Fund, which helps fund the pressing needs and priorities of the College, i.e. study abroad, financial aid, internships, or faculty recruitment.”

Niermann said he hoped that the prom and the senior gift would help form a strong connection between this year’s seniors and the College. “The University of Chicago would not be what it is today without the annual support of College alumni every year,” he said. “We rely on alumni giving to keep providing a world class education.”

Walsh explained his reasons for being involved in the fund. “I wanted to be co-chair of the Senior Class Gift, because I wanted to show my personal appreciation for those who have given to make my education at Chicago what it is and to assure that the Class of 2006 was able to express its gratitude as well,” Walsh said.

“Now the real work is in front of us—reaching out to seniors and making our case person by person. I’m confident that seniors are going to respond positively to the committee members—it’s a great team,” he added.

Walsh also pointed out that this year’s seniors have beaten the pace of last year’s committee, which had approximately 110 gifts after their first event held last Winter Quarter.

For many seniors, giving back was a way to ensure that the University continues with programs every student can enjoy.

“I had a good experience with study abroad in India,” said fourth-year Agraja Sharma. “I wanted to make sure future generations of students enjoy the same experience I had.”

Justin Stankiewicz and Claire Mazur, both members of the 2006 Senior Gift Committee, were voted Prom King and Queen.