Real and Tangible Results | The St. Lawrence Fund

June Peoples

St. Lawrence’s 160-year success is rooted in its ability to continually adapt, change, and grow to meet the needs of each new generation of students. External economic trends, student enrollments, and changes in the higher education landscape pose unique opportunities and challenges every year. Offering tangible, real-time solutions for students’ most pressing needs requires robust planning and effective financial strategies. The major funding sources that keep everything in balance comprise tuition, endowment, grants, and gifts to the St. Lawrence Fund, which includes unrestricted annual giving.

Nancy Rees Wall ’82 has been a firm supporter of the St. Lawrence Fund for years and recently made a significant gift to honor her 35th reunion and the close friendships she made during her college years. “I think we all recognize the tremendous capital required to keep St. Lawrence competitive with its peers in terms of programming, faculty, structure, and facilities,” Wall says. “I understand the gap between tuition and what it actually costs to deliver a high-quality education—the education St. Lawrence provides so well—and that benefits each of us to this day.”

The tuition gap Wall refers to is filled each year by the University’s other funding sources, predominantly endowments and the St. Lawrence Fund. These two resources cover some of the same ground, but the difference is all about timing. Whereas endowments secure permanent resources for the people and programs that define the University’s success and grow over time, unrestricted gifts support important initiatives as they arise. The St. Lawrence Fund offers immediate funds to kick-start new and emerging projects, special services, scholarships, and unique opportunities that would otherwise have to wait. The endowment and St. Lawrence Fund work in tandem to sustain the University’s vibrant liberal arts culture and keep pace with our rapidly changing world.

Having served on boards and committees of other educational institutions, Wall believes schools are getting better at helping people understand the importance of unrestricted giving. “I trust that people on the ground closest to St. Lawrence—closer than I am—are more aware of what is actually needed and will use my gift for the highest priority. Every time I visit campus or read about a new program or initiative, I feel the very real and tangible impact of the St. Lawrence Fund. Of course, sometimes a specific cause or initiative strikes someone as particularly interesting, and they prefer to restrict their contribution. That’s great. What’s important is that gifts of all kinds make this whole thing possible.”

Beyond the funding, there’s an even bigger picture. Having co-chaired several St. Lawrence reunion committees, Wall hopes her giving will serve as a call to action for every Laurentian to participate in the ongoing success of the University. “It is important to understand the fact that alumni giving percentages factor into our college rankings,” she explains. Alumni participation is one of the quality indicators that influence rankings in publications like U.S. News & World Report and The Princeton Review. Students consider alumni support when making their college decisions, and granting agencies and foundations look carefully at alumni loyalty and giving when considering their investments and awards.

Our New York State peer institutions have a 34 percent annual participation rate for alumni. The number is higher among private liberal arts colleges. The annual rate for St. Lawrence last year was 27 percent, and 40 percent of alumni give over a three-year period. Wall would be proud to see those numbers go higher. “Not every school is like SLU. People feel very strongly about their friendships and affiliations and maintain them through the years. That loyalty and passion can be channeled into meaningful opportunities to give back whether you’re just out of college or well established in your career.”