|Oct.7 was a historic evening for Dickinson College, as its most ambitious capital campaign was launched at the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.
In the shadow of Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, Dickinsonians gathered on Oct. 7 to launch the public phase of First in America: Fulfilling our Destiny, the most ambitious capital campaign in college history, benefiting faculty development, endowed student scholarships, the new science complex and the Annual Fund.
With a goal of $150 million and more than $97.1 million of that already in the coffers, this is no ordinary fund-raiser—this is the
reclamation of destiny.
The Dickinson Time Warp
During the black-tie kickoff celebration, which was generously underwritten by members of the alumni community, more than 350 alumni, trustees, administrators, students and friends of the college crossed the National Constitution Center’s marbled foyer and ascended the sweeping staircase to the Grand Hall overlook, with its 60-foot ceilings punctuated by flags from every U.S. state and territory. The guests strolled past the tall glass-windowed views of Independence Hall, mingled with life-sized bronze statues of the 42 delegates to the Constitutional Convention, and soon found themselves bearing witness to the full panoply of Dickinson’s past, present and future.
“It was here, in 1782, at the home of William Bingham, that Dr. Benjamin Rush started a conversation that would change our lives,” said campaign co-chair Jennifer Ward Reynolds ’77 in welcoming the attendees to Philadelphia. “Dr. Rush convinced Col. John Montgomery to build a college on the frontier. In that moment, on Bingham’s porch, Dickinson College was conceived.”
In honor of those earliest days of college history, a fife and drum corps heralded the arrival of Benjamin Franklin—resplendent in 18th-century garb and looking for all the world like the original—and a few of Franklin’s equally believable friends: John Dickinson, Thomas Jefferson and, of course, Benjamin Rush.
The past and future melded as Dickinson’s present-day representatives conversed onstage with the college’s colonial benefactors. Reynolds discussed global education and the library’s half-a-million books with John Dickinson. Professor of English Ashton Nichols had the unusual job of describing the college’s curriculum, including such newfangled subjects as women’s studies and bioinformatics, to Thomas Jefferson.
And when it came time for President William G. Durden ’71 to shake hands with his often-referenced inspiration, Dr. Benjamin Rush, not a few of the guests expected the space-time continuum to collapse entirely.
“It’s very nice that you could make it here this evening,” Durden said with a laugh. “After all, I can look out this window and see your gravesite at Christ Church.”
“It’s a short commute,” quipped Rush.
After the big-screen showing of an inspiring campaign video, in which students, professors and members of the alumni detailed the relevance of a Dickinson education and the importance of the campaign priorities (see page 23), dinner was served. And during dessert, campaign co-chairs George and Jennifer Reynolds took the stage to thank the myriad volunteers who have worked in service to the college—the John Dickinson Society members in attendance as well as a few of the Dickinsonians who have made extraordinary contributions to the campaign, including the board of trustees under the leadership of Chairman John Curley ’60.
Two families were recognized for making transformative gifts to the college. Vice President and Treasurer Annette Smith Parker ’73 paid tribute to Sid ’54 and Barbara James Kline ’57, discussing the importance of sustainability and permanence as the critical next stages in the college’s development. “The steadfast commitment of Sid and Barbara, which includes 43 consecutive years of giving to the Annual Fund, illustrates what role models they are,” Parker said.
And Professor of Biology John Henson honored the Stuart-Amick family for its $5 million leadership gift in support of Dickinson’s new science complex. “It is important to note in the context of tonight’s celebration that the Stuart-Amick family has a tradition of giving to the college that is representative of crossing borders and engaging the world. Their recent major gift to the sciences was preceded by the establishment of an endowed chair in international studies & business management in 2001 and a student scholarship fund in 1983,” Henson said.
In his remarks near the end of the program, President Durden addressed the future of the college. “I returned to my alma mater with but one goal in mind—to work with a talented ensemble of people to advance our college’s fortunes and reputation. I never again want such a noble institution to be judged less than excellent … Tonight I dedicate myself again to this singular ambition, focused by seven years of service and joined by all of you who share my dream of leaving our college a far better place than we found it.”
Then Durden did that which all wise presidents do in such circumstances: he invited 350 of his closest friends to join him on the dance floor.