In the two years President Thomas Hellie has been at Linfield, he and those who work in College Relations have increased the Linfield endowment by $11.63 million.
Jodi Kilcup, assistant vice president of College Relations, said the endowment fund and earnings are tallied twice a year, on June 30 and Dec. 31.
On June 30, 2006, a month after Hellie was hired, the endowment total was $62.38 million; as of Dec. 31, 2007, the total was $74.01 million.
Much of the growth can be attributed to investment returns, gifts from those who named Linfield in their wills and outright donations. However, the process also requires communication with donors, which is a talent of Hellie’s, Kilcup said.
“He’s extremely good at doing this,” she said. “He’s a very strong communicator, and he’s a good listener. He’s a wonderful ambassador for Linfield, and he’s also good at understanding what’s important to donors.”
Although fundraising is not his only responsibility as president, Hellie is a staunch advocate for giving back to one’s alma mater, something he continues to do.
“One of the key things we have to do is help (encourage) all of our alumni and even current students to give back to Linfield,” Hellie said.
The endowment has recently sparked student interest because it was part of the platform of junior Wesley Mitchell, former ASLC presidential candidate. One of Mitchell’s campaign promises was to find a way to increase the endowment, as it seemed small compared to Willamette University’s approximate $229 million endowment.
“There are schools that from day one began building the expectation with students and alumni that it’s really important to give back to your alma mater, so they have very high rates of (donations),” Kilcup said. “For whatever reason, Linfield historically didn’t communicate that expectation. Alumni love Linfield, but they haven’t always received communication asking them to support their institution, so we’re kind of playing catch-up.”
Emphasis on fund- raising for the college didn’t begin until the terms of former presidents Charles Walker and Vivian A. Bull, Director of Alumni Relations Debbie Harmon said. Bull was responsible for acquiring the donation of Keck Campus, which doubled the size of Linfield during her large fundraising effort, the “Defining Moment” campaign, Kilcup said.
Hellie said he has taken what these last presidents have done and tried to work from that.
“Endowment typically takes a long time to build,” he said. “When I talk to alumni and tell them it’s $73 million, they’re really impressed.”
As of now, Hellie and the office of College Relations are continuing their efforts in fundraising. The main benefactors are alumni, the McMinnville community, parents of past and present students and generous friends of the college, Kilcup said. While Hellie’s focus is more on those who may be making larger donations, the help from alumni and current students is always stressed.
“The stronger Linfield is, the more your degree is worth,” Harmon said. “It actually is a good idea for alumni to do what they can to help strengthen the college because it means the degree they already hold is worth that much more.”