Friday, April 4, 2008

Class of 2008 selects gift

Ropes course proposed for Winona campus

By Amy Kalina
Managing Editor

The Senior Class Gift Committee has announced its plan to raise money toward a “low ropes course” on the Saint Mary’s University campus as this year’s senior class gift.

The low ropes course would be incorporated into the university’s plans for a combined low and high ropes course, to be used by the Saint Mary’s community and others for teambuilding and personal development activities.

The course is tentatively planned to be built between the baseball field and the New Village, and a timeline for the project and overall funding have yet to be determined by the President’s Cabinet.

The Senior Class Gift Committee, consisting of 22 Saint Mary’s seniors, will begin taking pledges from members of the class of 2008 in the upcoming weeks. Pledges toward the gift will be collected over the next three years, beginning February 2009.

According to Senior Class Gift Committee member Rick McCoy, the ropes course could be used by athletic teams, clubs and organizations, and within the academic curriculum. The course could also be utilized by summer camps and off-campus programs, said McCoy.

“The ropes course will benefit the Saint Mary’s community, but it will benefit the larger Winona community as well,” said McCoy. “It is a gift that is useful and active, and we’re excited to be a part of it.”

The committee has worked since January to brainstorm and decide on a gift that would be representative of the class’ overall values and interests. Input from fellow seniors at the Senior Salute in February helped the committee to narrow down its options, and the committee voted before Easter Break to proceed with fundraising for the low ropes course.

“The class of 2008 is a class of strong leaders in academics, extra-curricular [activities] and service,” said McCoy. “The low ropes initiative course reflects our values of leadership and teambuilding, but it also shows our fun and active side.”

While the committee has not received a final estimate on the cost of the low ropes course, members hope to raise around $15,000 toward the project.

The tradition of the senior class gift began in the 1920s, but only recently has the gift been a more structured process.

Bob Fisher, director of annual giving at Saint Mary’s, has led the gift committee since 2001. A 1997 graduate of Saint Mary’s, Fisher believes that the senior class gift is one last educational experience the students can take with them after they graduate.

“The senior gift project teaches the students the importance of giving back,” said Fisher. “They’re giving to their community, to the university, and working together as a class to leave something behind to not only honor their time in Winona, but also to help honor Saint Mary’s.”

Past senior class gifts have included a scholarship formed by the class of 2004, the beautification of Saint Mary’s Park by the class of 2006, and the conversion of the game room into a 24-hour lounge by the class of 2007. The concrete foundation was poured last summer for a pavilion next to the New Village path, a gift from the class of 2005, and a mural displayed in the Hillside Hall lounge is a gift from the class of 2002. Other gifts around campus include the stained-glass door leading to the President’s lounge in Toner Student Center, a gift from the class of 2003, and numerous structures and statues within Saint Mary’s Park.

Fisher believes that the senior class gift is one of the most important aspects of his job. “It’s the mark that the class is leaving on the university for future students to see and to recognize them by,” said Fisher. “When the class of 2008 will return to campus years from now, they will see their gift and remember their years at Saint Mary’s and know they have left something valuable behind.”

As the committee moves forward in their fundraising efforts, support from the entire class will be essential in making the gift a reality. Fisher feels that the senior class takes special pride in Saint Mary’s and that fundraising efforts will be especially successful.

“I have been truly impressed by the class of 2008,” said Fisher. “The members of this class really have a true affinity for Saint Mary’s, their future alma mater. I am very proud of the progress they have made on their gift, but more importantly, on how they are going to be tremendous future alumni of Saint Mary’s.”

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