Coe College raises $90 million in largest-ever campaign

Money came at a critical time, officials say

Students walk across campus at Coe College between classes on a rainy Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazet
Students walk across campus at Coe College between classes on a rainy Thursday, October 18, 2012. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS -- Coe College raised $90 million in the largest campaign in school history, an infusion of money that came at a critical time to help the college with student scholarships, faculty salaries, campus expansion and a major building renovation, officials said.

The $90 million total was $10 million more than the $80 million goal of "Defining Moment: The Campaign for Coe." College leaders announced the fundraising results at a gala event on campus Thursday night that also was broadcast to alums around the country via a live webcast.

"The goals that it helped accomplish are critical to the future of the college," Coe President James Phifer said. "It's a triumph for the Coe community."

Coe leaders point to broad-based support -- more than 10,000 people contributed gifts to the campaign -- as one reason the effort was so successful. It's impressive that support came during a major economic downturn, as the economy was affecting Coe's endowment earnings and had families struggling to send their children to college, Phifer said.

"So an infusion of wealth at this particular moment was life blood," he said.

The campaign had four major facets: growing the Coe endowment; funding the renovation of Peterson Hall of Science; funding campus expansion; and enhancing annual contributions to the Coe Fund.

Significant progress was made on all fronts, officials said. Peterson Hall got a $12 million facelift this summer, basically gutting the building to create a modern science facility, Phifer said. That's key because first-rate science facilities are essential to recruit top-notch students, he said.

This campaign also boosted the Coe endowment by about $40 million, Vice President for Advancement Dick Meisterling said. The endowment was about $40 million before the campaign started; it now sits at about $80 million.

For a smaller private college like Coe, growth of the endowment is critically important in these economic times, he said.

"The endowment is nowhere near as large as we would hope it to be, but we're not constantly looking over our shoulders," Meisterling said. "What we have been able to do through the last two campaigns, and this campaign in particular, is to bring it up to a position where we're more confident about the future."

The passing of K. Raymond Clark in 2005 made Coe the beneficiary of an $18 million gift to the earning endowment.

The endowment is important because the college uses a portion of the earnings each year to fund "every purpose of the college," Phifer said, from scholarships to faculty salaries and endowed chairs to athletics.

"Earnings from the endowment go to support our people and our programs," he said.

This campaign also funded Coe's purchase of 80 percent of the property designated for its latest campus expansion project, increasing the physical footprint of the college, officials said.

Also, Meisterling said, the campaign helped cover unexpected needs, such as $5 million to a new steam plant necessitated by the 2008 flood.

The campaign launched in its silent phase in January 2005, moving into the public phase in December 2007. It concluded on June 30 this year.

The previous Coe fundraising campaign, which concluded in 2001, raised $61 million. When combined with the most recent Defining Moment campaign, the two efforts raised a total of $151 million, which is more than all of the previous fundraising efforts at Coe put together. 

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