A foundation of support to sustain growth

by Merritt A. Crowley, Vice President for College Advancement

It was exciting to see so many families visit campus for Family and Friends Weekend in September. Wheaton students, faculty, and staff hosted hundreds of guests, who gathered, both in person and virtually, for a variety of informative and fun events. If you were unable to attend, you can watch videos of the sessions on student life, the curriculum, and a community conversation with President Hanno.

Despite the ongoing challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic, our community is finding ways to stay connected and support one another. Philanthropy from our community has provided crucial support to campus operations. The college endowment has risen to $266.9 million, the highest in Wheaton’s history. This is the result of the largest total of new gifts to endowment in over a decade, and a careful management strategy that has ensured a steady performance, year over year.

The Parents Fund reached new heights last fiscal year, exceeding $670,000 in Wheaton Fund contributions. This is a remarkable level of support from parents and families for a college of our size. Wheaton Fund gifts support institutional priorities—financial aid, experiential learning opportunities, student life, STEM programs, the arts, faculty research projects, the library, and so much more. I hope you will have a chance to read our November “Through the Student Lens” piece featuring Charles Campbell ’23 and Celines Ramirez ’24, who are student callers for the Wheaton Fund Phonathon. They have a great perspective on the impact of your philanthropic dollars on campus.

New state-of-the-art learning spaces set to open

We are nearing completion of the 64,000-square-foot renovation of the former Science Center and Kollett Hall, which will be named the Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center in recognition of lead support from the Diana Davis Spencer Foundation. The projected move-in date is January 17, 2022.

The Diana Davis Spencer Discovery Center will be a campus hub for innovation, housing:

  • Wheaton’s growing social entrepreneurship programs, the Idea Lab and Fab Lab makerspaces;
  • classrooms, labs and office spaces for our two largest majors (business and management and psychology);
  • the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services;
  • the Gertrude Adams Career Design Studio, made possible through the generous support of Adrienne Bevis Mars ’58 and John F. Mars;
  • and simulations labs, skill labs and debriefing rooms for Wheaton’s new B.S. in nursing program.

Catalyst Fund for Wheaton Athletics

An anonymous alum and their spouse have issued a matching gifts challenge for Athletics that is designed to generate a total of $6 million in support for enhancements to our athletics facilities and endowment support for Wheaton’s coaching staff.

Phase 1 Master Planning for upgrades to the Haas Athletic Center is well underway. The college is working with S3 Design, an architecture and interior design firm that specializes in sports and recreation facilities. A renovated 1800-square-foot strength and conditioning center will quadruple the current workout space for varsity teams and have an immediate impact on all 400 varsity student-athletes. 

On the horizon, current plans include renovations to Emerson Gymnasium to locker rooms and a team meeting room are planned, along with enhancements to the Balfour Natatorium, tennis courts and outdoor fields. 

Compass curriculum enters year two

Wheaton continues to implement new facets of the Compass curriculum, which gives students the freedom and flexibility for high-quality advising opportunities, while integrating experiential learning opportunities throughout their four years at the college. Compass really helps students connect academics to career interests and it builds on Wheaton’s core principles of global citizenship, experiential learning, social justice, diversity and inclusion, creativity and intellectual curiosity. As a parent myself, I know how important it is for college students to connect their college experiences—inside and outside of the classroom—to careers that will help them fulfill their passions.

The college has earned high marks in the annual college rankings. For the second consecutive year, the college was recognized among the top 100 Best Value U.S. Liberal Arts Colleges and Best National Liberal Arts Colleges by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, Newsweek included Wheaton College on its list of “The Best Maker Schools, 2021.” Wheaton earned recognition in The Princeton Review Best Value Colleges for 2021 for providing a high-quality education with great career preparation at an affordable price, and in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for gender equality and reducing inequities.

As we say our heartfelt goodbyes to President Hanno and prepare to welcome our ninth president, Dr. Michaele Whelan, on January 1, 2022, I would like to express my continued gratitude to the Wheaton parents and families who play such a vital role in our community. Your belief in—and support of—Wheaton’s distinctive liberal arts mission helps to sustain our institution’s strong foundation.