Momentum from the Beginning
The University in 1906
as before, most of the money went to pay the most pressing bills, so
the doors wouldn't have to be locked. To address this state of affairs,
President Alpheus Hervey, whose tenure commenced in 1889, set out to
raise money to build endowment, as opposed to simply meeting immediate expenses.
This became an ongoing effort that shows no signs of stopping 114
It was ongoing in 1900, when, reports Candle in the Wilderness , “everyone
who was suspected of having a bank account was put on a preferred
list of prospects to be called upon.” President Almon Gunnison told the
trustees, “A new science building is one of the necessities of the
future. I have been searching for a donor and am not without hope that
he exists somewhere in the world, and that the Good Lord will reveal
to me his hiding place.”
Thanks to help from Irving Bacheller, Class of 1882 and the first best-selling
novelist of the 20th century, that donor turned out to be Andrew Carnegie
and his hiding place was Skibo Castle , Scotland . Bacheller found
him there and persuaded him to give St. Lawrence $50,000, which
made possible the opening of Carnegie Hall of Science in 1906. As
evidence that some things don't change very much, 100 years later St.
Lawrence's current president, Daniel F. Sullivan, has been calling for
a new science building as “one of the necessities of the future” and
searching for donors, although if he is invoking divine assistance
he is keeping the fact to himself.
Meanwhile, building projects generated their own mini-campaigns
to meet arising needs, such as the addition of Cole Reading Room to Herring
Library in 1903, and the renovation of College Hall and its subsequent
renaming in honor of its preserver, Mary Richardson, who had no connection
to St. Lawrence except that the president was her former pastor.
In this period, the first documented fund drive to endow a specific
professorship was successfully concluded. In 1902 the University hired
Mary Young to teach languages, the first woman professor in the historically
coeducational institution's history.
In 1906, President Gunnison told the trustees that St. Lawrence needed “an
increased endowment. If any members of the board can suggest any new
art by which funds, fairly untainted, can be secured, or point out the
trail that leads to the strongboxes of the rich and unwary, they may
perform a patriotic duty by placing their information in the hands of
the President.” Whether Gunnison was ever able to tap the coffers of
the unwary is not known, but three years later, the Rockefeller General
Education Board offered $50,000, if St. Lawrence would come up with $150,000
on its own. Possibly the first foundation challenge grant in the annals
of the University, by June 1912 it was successful, thanks in large part
to heavy faculty participation. Salaries were increased, and yet again
the college was saved from ruin.
“By the end of Dr. Gunnison's administration in 1914, the mere survival
of St. Lawrence was no longer the dominating question it had been
in previous decades,” reports Candle in the Wilderness . At
that juncture, the University had been foundering along, its survival
never certain and its liberal arts division's termination mere hours
away on more than one occasion, for nearly 60 years. Gunnison grew the endowment
from $210,000 to $562,000 in his 15-year presidency, providing a cushion
from which St. Lawrence would never again have to look death in
In 1921, an endowment enrichment drive reached its goal of $200,000,
modest by today's standards. This was an era of campaigns for specific
buildings, with achievement often brought about by one large gift that
was almost the total of the goal. Such was the case when local entrepreneur
A. Barton Hepburn and his wife, Emily Eaton Hepburn, endowed Hepburn
Hall of Chemistry in 1925 (see page 6) . Here was yet another
example of North Country citizens who did not attend St. Lawrence
helping their hometown University . A year later, Emily Eaton Hepburn's
name appeared on another campus building, when she and two lifelong friends
provided funds for the construction of Dean-Eaton Hall.
Although it was (and is) not exactly a campaign, a new era in fund-raising
dawned in 1928 with the first organized Alumni Fund, complete with fund
chairs, class agents and special events in cities with critical masses
of alumni. In 1932, with the Great Depression galloping out of control,
648 alumni gave their alma mater a total of $5,600.
But thanks to the Depression and World War II, the 1930s and '40s were
not glory years in the history of fund-raising, at St. Lawrence or anywhere
else. In 1927, it was announced that Fisher Hall, home of the Theological
School , needed $250,000 in repairs. A drive was started, but got off
the ground slowly and was curtailed by the Depression.
In December 1951, Fisher Hall burned in a spectacular conflagration
to which its own disrepair contributed in no small measure. The following
spring, a $300,000 campaign to replace it was launched. With world war
and depression in the past, this drive was successful, and Atwood Hall
opened in 1955.
But that was one of the last single-building drives. With the close
of World War II the modern era of comprehensive, long-range fund-raising
campaigns took flight. Riding the crest of the G.I. Bill, large numbers
of students were bursting the seams at colleges nationwide. The need
for expanded facilities was immediate and acute, and new approaches to
fund-raising were called for. Necessity being forever the mother of invention,
the times were characterized by increasing sophistication in campaign
planning and strategies.
At St. Lawrence, consultants recommended a 10-year development program
that would produce a hockey arena, a new library, a classroom building,
a student center, an administration building and major boosts to
scholarship and general endowment funds.
Although the perceived need for a library was greater, the hockey
arena was first on the list because the consultants felt that Laurentians
had to be conditioned to philanthropy with a relatively modest campaign
before they could successfully generate the funds to complete a more
ambitious effort. The 1949-50 Appleton Arena fund drive is considered
the first of the modern period because it anticipated and helped pave
the way for future efforts, most immediately that for Owen D. Young Library
later in the '50s.
This first post-war effort, chaired by three men whose names now grace
important campus buildings that came later in that 10-year drive — Homer
Vilas, Owen D. Young and E.J. Noble —had a goal of $400,000.
But what was most important about it was not that it provided a home
for hockey, which had previously been at the mercy of the elements on
an outdoor rink behind Dean-Eaton Hall, and even earlier on the frozen
Raquette and Grass Rivers, but that it was calculated to develop in people
a habit of giving that could be called upon in the future. It was launched
at a gala 1949 Homecoming celebration that was carried off, said University
publicist J. Robert Williams at the time, in “a spirit of enthusiastic good will
approaching euphoria” and ended with the goal left in the dust in record