Barry McNamara  |  Published February 01, 2021

Campaign Soars Past $60 Million

Monmouth College’s ‘Light This Candle’ capital campaign ‘moving forward successfully’ as it enters its final two years.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – Monmouth College’s Light This Candle Campaign has reached an impressive milestone, climbing past the $60 million mark with almost two years remaining.

The campaign, which formally kicked off in March 2019, aims to raise a minimum of $75 million by Dec. 31, 2022.

Light This Candle will significantly bolster Monmouth’s endowment while focusing specifically on four objectives: increasing financial aid and scholarships available to students; creating more opportunities for faculty and staff support and academic innovation; adding to a capital improvements fund that supports campus infrastructure; and creating a stronger financial base for the College by building an even stronger culture of philanthropy.

“The College’s mission statement proudly asserts that ‘we empower students to realize their full potential, live meaningful lives, pursue successful careers, and shape their communities and world through service and leadership.’ The progress of the Light This Candle Campaign is a result of the deep belief in that mission held by so many people,” said Monmouth President Clarence R. Wyatt. “Their generosity enables the College to navigate the challenges confronting all of American higher education with greater confidence and to build the College not just for the present moment, but for generations to come.”

The campaign, which stood at $60,945,219 on Jan. 31, was bolstered by a “nice array of donors” in terms of the dollar amount of the gifts and the type of contributions made, according to Monmouth Vice President for Development and College Relations Hannah Maher.

“We’re moving forward successfully despite this being a time when we’ve all been a little unsettled due to the pandemic,” said Maher. “We’re seeing that people still want to give to the institution, and they’re not as hesitant as I might’ve thought. They’re supporting all our different candles and are especially stepping up by funding student scholarships and support, keeping our students at the forefront of the campaign.”

THE JOHNSONS: Monmouth merger couple Bob '59 and Marilyn Johnson '59 have mad... THE JOHNSONS: "Monmouth merger" couple Bob '59 and Marilyn Johnson '59 have made a current gift to the capital campaign, as well as an estate gift.Among the donors who have participated in the Light This Candle Campaign are Bob ’59 and Marilyn Schneider Johnson ’59 of Oxford, Ohio, a couple who met as Monmouth students and are grateful for the education they received.

“When the pandemic started, we had just updated our will and designated a gift for Monmouth College,” said Bob. “We never got around to telling anyone (at the College) about that. But then we received the (Monmouth College Magazine) donor issue, and right around the same time, we got an email about gift annuities from (Director of Development and Legacy Giving) Gena Alcorn.”

With that information about gift annuities, Marilyn said of a gift to Monmouth, “Why don’t we do it now instead of later?”

That “instead of” became “in addition to,” as the Johnsons worked with Monmouth development officer Bobbi Pio to make a stock gift in addition to setting up a scholarship with their estate.

“Bobbi made it very easy for us,” said Bob. “We transferred the stock and got it all set up. Instead of receiving a stock dividend, we get an income from the gift annuity. Marilyn and I both had such a positive experience at Monmouth, and this allows us to do something good for the College right now.”

Supporting rural America

Roger Ray ’53 of Lacey, Wash., is establishing a scholarship that will support students from small towns who study science. Ray came to Monmouth from Abingdon, Illinois, a few years after war heroes (and cousins) James Stockdale and Bobby Dunlap also came to Monmouth from Abingdon, which today has a population of around 3,500.

“It’s important to me to support students who come from a non-college family background, and students who come from small schools and small towns.” Roger Ray’ 53

“When I took calculus my freshman year, I was the only one out of 16 students who hadn’t had pre-calculus in high school,” said Ray, who makes annual gifts to his alma mater. “So it’s important to me to support students who come from a non-college family background, and students who come from small schools and small towns.”

Ray said such students flourish at Monmouth.

“I want students to take advantage of what’s offered at a school like Monmouth, which gives you a good, broad background,” he said. “It’s not so much about what you study, it’s about learning how to learn – that continued learning that is so important today.”

Ray studied chemistry during its Haldeman-Thiessen heyday on campus, so he’s particularly partial to supporting students pursuing what today is called STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

“The national situation is such that we have to fall back on strong programs in the sciences and believe in them and support them,” he said.

Part of the community

Another donor who worked to set up a scholarship during the campaign was Linda Groves of Galesburg, Illinois, who was married to the late Rob Groves ’65. Although she is not a Monmouth graduate, she has always been mindful of what the College means to the town where she was born and raised.

LINDA GROVES: Though not an alumna herself, she's made a gift to the capital campaign that ho... LINDA GROVES: Though not an alumna herself, she's made a gift to the capital campaign that honors the memory of her late husband, Rob Groves '65.“Monmouth College had always been a part of the Monmouth community,” she said, thinking back to her youth of theatre performances and a variety of cultural events held in what is now called Dahl Chapel. “The College gives people an opportunity to express themselves, and for others to see all those types of genres expressed.”

She also fondly recalled Monmouth students going into the community in the 1960s and serving as tutors through a program at Jamieson Community Center.

“I absolutely love Monmouth College, and even though I’m not a graduate of Monmouth, I still felt the need for supporting students,” said Groves, who created the Robert & Linda Groves Scholarship through a gift she’ll pay off over the next five years. The only criteria of the scholarship are to be a Warren County resident with financial need.

“Education is expensive – we all know that,” she said. “There are so many people who want to go to college but can’t afford it. So we need to support that. If we don’t do it, who will?”

Creative giving

Brad Nahrstadt, a 1989 alumnus, and his wife, Debra, considered making a gift to support a scholarship, but then decided to get “creative” with their campaign contribution.

“There was no question that Deb and I were going to support the campaign,” said Nahrstadt, who is a member of the Monmouth College Board of Trustees. “I made my first gift to Monmouth when I was still a senior in college, signing over my room deposit to go toward the Class of 1989 gift. I realized from the word ‘Go’ how important it was to support Monmouth. I call it the debt I’ll never fully be able to repay.”

Nahrstadt said he owes that debt, in part, to others who came before him and donated to campaigns before Light This Candle.

THE NAHRSTADTS: Brad '89 and his wife knew they wanted to make a gift to the campaign, and th... THE NAHRSTADTS: Brad '89 and his wife knew they wanted to make a gift to the campaign, and they found the perfect avenue, supporting the College's Lead Mentor program.“I received a Senate Scholarship to attend Monmouth, which covered about half of my expenses,” he said. “But then there were other scholarships I received that helped me stay at Monmouth. I benefited from someone else’s largesse.”

The students who will benefit from the newly created Nahrstadt Mentorship Fund are Monmouth’s Lead Mentors.

“I’m really passionate about the student experience at Monmouth,” said Nahrstadt, who chairs the Board’s Student Affairs Committee. “There’s never been a consistent source of funding for the mentoring program. So when Deb and I were looking for a more out-of-the-box type gift, this was suggested as a possible avenue, and we both said, ‘Now we’re talking.’ This will be an opportunity for us to really see our dollars put to good use and help multiple students in their mentoring role.”

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