Local support advances university fundraising campaign

USAO President John Feaver accepts a $150,000 gift for the university’s Ready, Set, NOW Campaign from First National Bank and Trust President Walter Voss. The campaign has received substantial support from area donors.

Local support advances university fundraising campaign


CHICKASHA -- Gifts from Chickasha area businesses and individuals have moved the comprehensive fundraising campaign at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma closer to the finish line.

The Ready, Set, NOW Campaign kicked off its public phase in November of 2013 and, as of the beginning of August, has reached 70 percent of its overall goal of $4.85M.  During the silent phase of the campaign, which lasted one year, campaign leadership was enlisted and major gifts were solicited from key supporters.  Launched in late 2012, the campaign is expected to take from two to two and a half years to complete.

The Chickasha community has shown particular zeal in supporting the campaign.

Leadership gifts from Cary and B.J. DeHart and the First National Bank and Trust Company represent some 55 percent of the unrestricted contributions to the campaign. The Chickasha Community Foundation has also supported the campaign's scholarship goal.

Unrestricted gifts can be applied to the individual campaign projects as needed.

"The University is one of Chickasha's greatest and most prized assets," said Walt Voss, president of the First National Bank. "We are honored to play a role in this campaign and support every effort to enhance the University's facilities and programs. We are two of the oldest institutions in the community, but with the broad-based support of our customers and community, two of the most progressive and vibrant."

USAO President John Feaver expressed gratitude for the generosity of the gifts while underscoring the importance of the relationship between the university and the community.

“The type and degree of a community's support for a college or university in which it is located is a direct and explicit measure of the importance that the community attributes to the school,” Feaver said. “A community that publicly prizes and invests in its institution helps maximize its potential to recruit and retain top faculty and students, encourage a continuing healthy level of state appropriations, and attract high levels of private giving.”

Contributions have also come from local members of the USAO’s Board of Regents, and the governing boards of the USAO Foundation and Alumni Association.

The campaign will fund an ambitious five-year scholarship plan, update and renovate Austin Hall, make improvements to Nash Library and develop and implement a comprehensive master plan for the campus grounds through private giving.

The campaign is broken down into five divisions, each with its own leadership and goals. The general campaign chair is Mo Anderson, USAO regent and OCW alumna, and vice chairman of the board of Keller-Williams Real Estate.

The five divisions are Faculty and Staff, Boards, Alumni, Local and Statewide Friends, and Foundations and Corporations.

The Faculty/Staff campaign, led by Dr. Aleisha Karjala, associate professor of political science, and Nancy Hughes, dean of students, reached 103 percent of its goal with a 94 percent participation rate.

The Boards campaign, led by Ann Marie Harrison and Tom Cordell, is nearly complete at 98 percent.

The Alumni campaign underway now is led by Dr. Kathy Black, OCW’s class of 1958, a professor emeritus at the University of Central Oklahoma, a member of the Osage Tribe and the namesake of USAO scholarship for Native American women and Micheal Palmer, class of 1980 and Senior Vice President of TransWestern, an international commercial real estate firm headquartered in Houston, Texas.

This phase includes informational meetings and one-on-one visits already underway in multiple cities in Oklahoma, as well as across the United States.

Dr. Michael Nealeigh, vice president for university advancement, has been encouraged by alumni response to the informational meetings and expects local alumni support to mirror the outpouring of gifts from those now located in other cities and states.

"I am confident that the university's many alumni and friends in the Chickasha area will support the current campaign projects as they have supported important initiatives in the past," Nealeigh said.

The local and statewide effort among USAO friends is chaired by Cary DeHart, founder and President of CMS Willowbrook.

Another business notable, David McLaughlin, USAO regent and co-founder and retired president of Advance/Pierre Foods, is lending his reputation and expertise to fundraising efforts among foundations and corporations.

The projects funded by the campaign were determined through a process that merged strategic planning and market research. A feasibility study was conducted by Cargill Associates, a national fundraising firm located in Fort Worth, Tex., to discover the level of interest in projects identified by the USAO administration as needing immediate attention.