The sustaining strength of the Wheaton community

There are many new challenges ahead of us, but our shared commitment to strengthening connections within the Wheaton community will help us as we support one another and support our students.

by Merritt A. Crowley, Vice President for College Advancement

Fall semester is drawing to a close and our students continue to take the responsibility of social distancing and community safety protocols very seriously. Wheaton parents can take pride in the maturity and in the care for the health of our community that their students have shown. Academically, students and faculty are working together to successfully navigate the challenges of hybrid classes and remote learning.

COVID-19 has altered our world and our community. But one thing that will never change is Wheaton’s commitment to providing students with a world-class academic experience and the skills they need to succeed in their professional lives beyond Wheaton.

Advancing the Academic Mission
In my role at the college, I lead a dedicated team of professionals who are committed to providing Wheaton alumni, parents, families, and friends with opportunities to take part in the life of the college and develop the financial resources needed to advance Wheaton’s distinctive liberal arts mission.

As you might have read in the fall issue of Wheaton Magazine, the college concluded a three-year fundraising initiative called Creating Possibility on June 30th. A grand total of $52.3 million was raised, thanks to 7,500 donors, surpassing our goal by four percent. The momentum that Creating Possibility brought to Wheaton’s fundraising efforts was not diminished by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the final months of the initiative saw even greater levels of participation in our community. The Parents Fund played an integral role in the success of the Wheaton Fund, setting new records last year for participation and contributions.

Within the Office of Advancement, we are—as ever—focused on generating support for institutional priorities. To date we have raised $13.8 million toward our $18 million goal this fiscal year (July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021). Much of this funding will be directed to academic growth initiatives that will support continued implementation of the Compass Curriculum, expansion of new major courses of study, and investments in the college’s athletics infrastructure.

In addition, we are continuing final preparations for the transformation of the former Science Center into a new Academic Center that will serve as home to our Business & Management and Psychology departments, the Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services, our makerspace, and our growing programs in social entrepreneurship.

Abundantly Wheaton Challenge
Last week, President Hanno announced a new $500,000 Wheaton Fund Challenge—the Abundantly Wheaton Challenge—which was created by six members of our community, including current parents and parents of alumni, who want to inspire new gifts and pledges to the Wheaton Fund from now through December 31.

All new Wheaton Fund gifts and pledges made before December 31 will be effectively doubled. Your Wheaton Fund support provides the college with immediate bottom-line funding for every academic department and administrative office at Wheaton, including the efforts of our COVID-19 Task Force. If you have already made a Wheaton Fund gift, thank you for your support.

Our Wheaton Fund is a top priority every year because it provides budget support for our academic enterprise. This year, costs for COVID-19 remediation on campus and the extensive testing program are projected at $6.5 million. The health and safety of our students is paramount, and Wheaton Fund support is helping to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 in our campus living and learning facilities.

Maintaining Real Connections—Virtually
Despite the obstacles that prevent us from gathering together on campus we will continue to collaborate with campus partners and volunteers to find new and inventive ways to create meaningful virtual engagement opportunities for alumni, parents, and friends, as we navigate the narrower limits of connection available during the pandemic.

This fall, we piloted three virtual career panels for students, connecting them with alumni in the fields of public health, business and finance, and marketing/media. Our Virtual Family and Friends Weekend gave us an opportunity to learn more about life on campus directly from students, faculty, and senior administrators. The Run with Roary Virtual 5K event was a great success, with over 250 members of the Wheaton community taking part. And membership in the Wheaton College Virtual Book Club continues to grow. Stay tuned for announcements of more virtual community events in the months to come.

In closing, I would like to thank Wheaton families for the tremendous level of engagement and support that you bring to our community. I know from talking with so many of you over the years that you are all truly invested in the Wheaton student experience. I speak for the Division of Advancement and every member of the Wheaton staff when I say that we share your commitment to helping today’s students—your students—make the most of their education. Thank you for all you do to ensure a bright future for Wheaton College.