NORTH ADAMS -- Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts officials and alumni launched the first capital campaign in the state university's 117-year history on Wednesday, while also honoring President Mary K. Grant's decade of leadership through the establishment of an endowed fund in her name.
Sowing Seeds for Success, the MCLA Campaign for the Future, seeks to raise funds to support the programs and initiatives of both the Center for Science and Innovation and Bowman Hall, which will undergo renovations beginning in 2013. It also aims to support other campus-wide faculty initiatives through a combination of donations -- including naming opportunities of buildings, rooms and spaces around the campus -- and 30 endowed funds for academic programs and scholarships.
Grant also announced a $1 million endowed scholarship by an anonymous donor to bolster the college's service learning, civil engagement and travel abroad programs.
Andrew Mick, campaign co-chair and president of New England Newspapers Inc., spoke of the continuing growth of the school thanks in part to the capital campaign.
"We need to ensure that the remarkable ascent of this institution continues, strong with the encouragement of private support to provide the essential things that our deserving students and faculty need that public tax support can't provide," he said. "The MCLA Sowing Seeds for Success seeks to secure in excess of $22.5 million over the next three years. The good news is that to date, over 17 million has been raised."
Mick, an alumnus of the college and a member of the MCLA Foundation Inc. Board of Directors, is overseeing the campaign with fellow co-chairs MCLA Foundation Inc. Director Michael Christopher, Trustee Susan Gold and MCLA Foundation Inc. Chairman Anthony Dolan.
Throughout the evening, local, state and college officials spoke about Grant's passion for her alma mater, the programs throughout the county she has championed and the changes to the campus and its academic programs that have occurred since she began her tenure as its 11th president in 2002.
"It doesn't take long working with Mary to know and understand where her priorities are and how important this campus is to her and her to it. In much of my business and the president's business, much of what you accomplish relies on grants," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said.
"Ten years ago, MCLA was very fortunate to have a grant apply to them. The Mary Grant. The college was smart enough at that time to take this Grant and for 10 years, they have reaped the benefits of the Mary Grant, one that has built infrastructure, enhanced programming, brought on additional professional staff and enriched the life of so many students. The Mary Grant has not only had a major impact on this college, but has had significant role in Berkshire County."
State Sen. Benjamin Downing, D-Pittsfield, said the capital campaign is needed, whether the state supports public higher education in the way that it should with public tax dollars or not.
"Unfortunately, your support is needed to help build the cake and not just be the icing and the sprinkles on top," he said. "If there was a Mary Grant in every senate district and every house district, then public higher education would be the No. 1 priority in the state Legislature."
Boston Globe photographer Derrick Jackson, whose son Tano Holmes is a junior at the college, offered the parent perspective, speaking highly of the "magic of Mary Grant," which his family first encountered while he was on campus as a Hardman Lecture Series speaker.
He said since visiting the college with his wife, their son has been afforded the same opportunities at MCLA as he would have at a private college.
"It was said earlier tonight that public higher education is not an expense, but an investment. From the very practical perspective of a parent, our son's education has been the best investment in the history of education," Jackson said. "In the four years that he has been here, we will have paid the same amount as a single year at a private institution."
Grant's accomplishments during her tenure were also spoken of highly by alumni during a reception prior to the fundraising campaign kick-off.
MCLA Alumni Association board member Laura-Jean Griffin Hickey, who worked in the college's Admissions Office after graduating in 1999, said she first met Grant while giving tours to the finalists for the president's post.
"I was struck by Mary while giving her tour," Hickey said. "Not only was she an alumna, but she seemed to have the same passion for this institution that I have. Every time she speaks to the alumni board, I think that she needs to speak to alumni everywhere. She can bring those alums, who haven't been to campus since graduation, back here. She's awe-inspiring."