From IWU Magazine, Fall 2013 edition
All in for Wesleyan!
Titan enthusiasm carries the day to meet historic challenge.
Humorous memes like the one above, featuring Assistant Professor of Sociology Meghan
Burke, were created by University staff and alumni to encourage the IWU community
in meeting each of the day’s challenges.
July 17, 2013, was the day Titan giving went viral.
“All in for Wesleyan” began with a challenge gift by John ’82 and Joann Horton in
which the couple committed to provide a $100,000 gift for student scholarships and
financial aid if others contributed $50,000 by day’s end.
As word spread about the Hortons’ challenge, other alumni offered their own challenges,
including Howard ’60 and Sharon Fricke ’60, who pledged a $10,000 gift if 600 gifts
were made. That challenge was met before 1 p.m. Several more alumni challenges followed
and were met by alumni and friends.
By day’s end, 2,475 donors had participated in the challenge (1,924 were alumni),
with approximately $480,000 raised. Among those giving were 302 people who made their
first-ever gift to IWU. Seventy-four members of the Class of 2013 gave as brand-new
graduates and 37 underclassmen also gave to the “All In” challenge.
Jeff Mavros ’98, who heads the University’s Wesleyan Fund for Annual Giving, looks back on what happened that day with a sense of awe and gratitude. What impressed
him most was the real love for the institution that was conveyed by participants,
who took on the challenges and made them their own, spreading the word through Facebook
and Twitter as well as via phone and text messages.
“We ended up calling it a kind of virtual Homecoming, in retrospect,” says Mavros.
“We were really hoping to see a groundswell of support and watch it grow kind of organically,
but it exceeded our expectations in just the positivity that was shared online. Never
before has there been a forum for so many people to share in this way, and social
media has changed the game in that regard.
“It allowed people a chance to share with other members of the extended community
how they felt about Illinois Wesleyan and what it means in their life,” Mavros adds.
“That’s what the day became about, and it was incredible to watch the dollar total
rise and see as many people get involved as possible — but it was even more special
to see everyone’s love of Illinois Wesleyan come out on one day and have everybody
share in that.”
President Richard F. Wilson was vacationing in Barcelona with his wife, Pat, “so we
were roughly seven hours ahead of central time, and we were watching the challenge
begin in mid-afternoon,” he recalls. His excitement grew as he received encouraging
text updates. By nightfall, Barcelona-time, Wilson says he gave up all hope for sleep
as he couldn’t resist checking his phone every few minutes to see what progress had
“One of the reasons we were as successful as we were,” Wilson notes, “is that we determined
in advance that all of the money raised in this challenge would be used to support
the students. And I think that idea resounded with alumni and friends, because they
wanted to make a gift, and I think it made them feel really good that it was going
to help students who either were at Wesleyan or would be coming to Wesleyan in the
Wilson adds that more than 200 IWU faculty and staff also made gifts that day, “and
that’s a significant amount of people on the campus who caught the spirit and joined
in this challenge.”
Other alumni who joined in making challenge gifts were Ed ’62 and Lin Phelps, who
offered $25,000 if over 1,000 gifts were made (a mark that was reached before 3 p.m.).
Korey ’00 and Heidi Coon offered the next challenge of $15,000 if the number of donors
reached 1,200. That threshold was reached, and yet another challenge came through
after 5 p.m. when Mike Sombeck ’83 offered a gift of $25,000 if the number of donors
Two more families, energized by the overwhelming response they had witnessed during
the day, made their own challenges that ended the one-day of giving on a high note.
Randy ’73 and Jodie Reed offered $25,000 and Ed ’62 and Lin Phelps added $10,000 more
to match every new gift, dollar for dollar, up to a total of $35,000 for gifts received
“It was amazing to be at the epicenter of this day,” says Mavros. “Watching it unfold
was without a doubt the best day of my professional career.
“It was a day where there was no distinction between love for the institution and
financial support of its mission. It was about everybody doing their part and that
was enough. That helped move the meter forward. So the impact was far and wide, and
will be felt for some time here on campus.
“You’d be surprised,” Mavros adds, “how many people are coming up to me to talk about
the challenge and to ask, ‘When is the next one?’”
For more information on Illinois Wesleyan giving, click here.