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Alumnus Makes Largest Gift in Worcester State College’s History

October 16, 2008
By: WSU News

A $2 million gift by 1963 graduate Steven Keenan and his wife, Jacqueline, leads the record-high giving by Worcester State College’s alumni during its largest fundraising campaign in 134 years. “In these uncertain times, education is one thing that retains its value,” said Worcester State College President Janelle Ashley. “We are so very fortunate to have dedicated alumni like the Keenans who support the education and opportunity that Worcester State College provides to so many,” she said. “Jackie and I received our undergraduate education at state colleges at a time when they were supported with public funds,” Steve Keenan explained. “Public support has fallen dramatically, and alumni must step in and play a bigger role in assisting future generations of Worcester State students.

“Thursday’s public unveiling of the “Opportunity for a Lifetime” campaign comes nearly 18 months after the Worcester State Foundation began gathering a nucleus of support from generous alumni, board members, foundations, corporations, community leaders, and other contributors. The Foundation has employed a strategy of matching donor interests with the needs of WSC. So far, this approach has raised more than $7.81 million in gifts and pledges, providing a solid foundation for continuing success in the campaign, which officially concludes on June 30, 2010.

“We are grateful to all our distinguished donors who have made the decision to be a part of Worcester State history, and in particular, to Steve and Jackie Keenan. Their incredible generosity is an inspiration to other alumni to make a difference in the lives of future Worcester State students,” said Vice President of Institutional Advancement Thomas M. McNamara.

The Keenans’ gift toward “Opportunity for a Lifetime: A Campaign for the Future of Worcester State College” is unrestricted and will be placed in the Worcester State Foundation endowment, a fund that addresses immediate and priority needs of the college. WSC espouses many of the causes the Keenans believe are important, including education, nursing, and human rights. “It’s a way of affecting many people over a long period of time,” he said. “We’re hoping this will encourage students to go out and do socially responsible things, such as teaching and nursing.” Steve and Jackie share a deep enthusiasm for helping others. Rather than attend WSC’s commencement in 1963, Steve traveled to Syracuse University for Peace Corps training. He served as a teacher in Liberia for two years and met Jackie, who was also a teacher, there.

Of the $10 million to be raised during the “Opportunity for a Lifetime” campaign, nearly half is earmarked for student scholarships, the demand for which has increased as students and families struggle to meet costs not covered by financial aid. A third will help advance WSC’s academic programs and support faculty-led undergraduate research. Another third will boost the Worcester State Foundation’s unrestricted endowment. It will also take maximum advantage of the Public Higher Education Endowment Incentive and Capital Outlay Contribution Program, which provides for up to $5 million for endowment by matching private donations received through June 30, 2010.

“We have set an ambitious goal-twice that of our previous campaign-so that we can support our talented students, our accomplished faculty, and our stellar programs,” President Janelle C. Ashley said. “I am deeply committed to this campaign and the role it will play in realizing our vision for Worcester State College.”

“As one of the first recipients of the Lieutenant Colonel James P. Sheehan Endowed Scholarship, I can personally attest to how opportunity directly leads to success,” said Gunnery Sergeant Danny Hamler, a Marine and member of the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. “This scholarship has not only eased my financial burden in pursuing my college education, but it has also provided me with a level of self-confidence.”

Among the many other commitments recorded during the campaign’s initial quiet phase are nearly 50 gifts and pledges of $25,000 and higher, including the following:

  • A gift of $500,000 from WSC alumnus retired Lt. Col. James F. Sheehan for student scholarships and achievement awards. Once a scholarship recipient himself, Sheehan wants to help future WSC students fulfill their dreams of earning a college degree.
  • A $500,000 grant from The George F. and Sybil H. Fuller Foundation for the renovation of the historic Administration Theater. Trustees Joyce Fuller and her daughter-in-law, Jan Fuller, are champions of theatrical expression and its importance to liberal arts education.
  • A combined gift and pledge of $250,000 from WSC alumni Gregg and Pamela Rosen for a student scholarship and the endowment.
  • A $250,000 grant from the Davis Education Foundation, established by Stanton and Elizabeth Davis after Mr. Davis’ retirement as chairman of Shaw’s Supermarkets, Inc., to revamp WSC’s liberal arts and sciences curriculum.
  • A $200,000 grant from The Stoddard Charitable Trust’s for the college’s green chemistry program.

Alumni are more than 65 percent of the nearly 6,000 donors who have made gifts to the “Opportunity for a Lifetime” campaign. Their gifts and pledges include the following:

  • A pledge of more than $150,000 from Anne L. Gordon and her husband, Ben, for the endowment
  • A gift and pledge of more than $75,000 from David Bedard, president of the Worcester State Foundation, and his wife, Linda, for a student scholarship and the endowment
  • A gift of more than $30,000 from retired Col. Joseph Deely for a scholarship for nursing majors in memory of his late wife, Elizabeth
  • A pledge of more than $25,000 from WSC Interim Vice President of Academic Affairs Maureen Shamgochian and her husband, Edward, for an undergraduate research award for biology majors

The “Opportunity for a Lifetime” campaign also enjoys solid support from WSC board members. To date, participation in the campaign by members of the Board of Trustees, Worcester State Foundation, and Alumni Association’s Advisory Board is 85 percent.

“We are celebrating two important milestones: an unprecedented $7.8 million raised by alumni and friends of Worcester State and record-level giving by alumni,” said Board of Trustee Chair George Tetler III. “We have several more million dollars to raise, and I am confident more alumni and friends will help us reach the $10 million goal.”

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