Gifts both big and small are leading the Fort Hays State University Foundation ahead of schedule on its $100 million, five-year Journey capital campaign.
In a news conference Thursday afternoon in the FHSU Memorial Union, Steve Shields, co-chairman of the Journey campaign, announced that as of June 30, the campaign had raised $88 million.
“We’re way over the hump and we’re gonna beat it,” said Shields, who attended FHSU from 1974 to 1976 and is a member of the foundation’s board of trustees.
“We wouldn’t be there without the generosity of our alumni and our Tiger fans and the general community,” he said.
While FHSU President Tisa Mason outlined some of the larger gifts in her remarks, she also mentioned smaller individual gifts comprise a large portion of the total.
Overall, she said, 21,571 donors have given to the campaign.
“I’m elated to report that of the 58,000 total campaign gifts that we have received to date, nearly 22,000 — more than one-third — are gifts under $100. At Fort Hays State University every gift matters,” she said, voicing the slogan that has often accompanied campaign activities.
More than $13.8 million of the total has specifically been for student scholarships, Mason said. Other gifts have included buses for the athletics teams and a state-of-the-art simulation lab in the nursing department.
Jason Williby, president and CEO of the FHSU Foundation, said many of those smaller gifts come through Tiger Call, the annual alumni phonathon donation drive.
“Most schools hire out marketing services to do their phonathons, but Fort Hays State uses students. So they can talk about how beautiful the quad is or who they have for a philosophy professor,” he said.
“Sometimes when we announce our large gifts, people think small gifts don’t matter, but they make a big difference,” Mason said after the news conference. “We want people to know that whatever they can do to support the university has value.”
Mason also spoke of the level of giving by faculty and recent graduates.
“We have faculty who stepped up right away, and they made an endowment,” she said, noting Cole Engel, assistant professor of accounting, and Tony Gabel, associate professor of management.
“Faculty and staff are also benefiting from the gifts we receive, so when they came out so fast, leading the way through their example, it’s a truly amazing and meaningful gesture,” Mason said.
The Journey campaign was announced at homecoming in September 2016 as the university’s largest capital campaign with a goal of $100 million in five years.
It got a boost this spring with the conclusion of legal issues over the $20 million estate of Earl and Winona Field — the largest gift in the FHSU Foundation’s history.
The Fields made their fortune in an abstract and title company and investments. They did not have children, and willed nearly the entire estate to the FHSU Foundation.
After Earl’s death in 2013, however, his part-time bookkeeper and caretaker, Wanda Oborny, claimed she discovered a codicil in which he said he changed his mind and left the bulk of the estate to her. The signed witnesses were Steve and Kathy Little, friends of Oborny’s, who later died in a murder-suicide after a federal investigation was begun.
An Ellis County court determined in 2016 the codicil was not valid, but Oborny’s appeal held up the awarding of the estate to the FHSU Foundation.
Oborny pleaded guilty in March to one count of mail fraud in a plea agreement that sentenced her to 12 months probation and a charitable donation of $100 a month to the foundation.
Early this year, FHSU announced the Field Estate gift will be endowed for scholarships, with 50 percent for the athletic department, 25 percent for the art department and 25 percent for the music department.