It was a fundraising effort that was years in the making.
SHINE: The Campaign for the University of Lethbridge went public in 2018. The school was hoping to raise $100 million to support the university and engage 20,000 alumni.
On Thursday morning, university officials announced that both those goals had been not only been reached, they have been surpassed.
“This is an exciting day for us because it’s all about how we can support our university, and in particular our students as they continue to want to be part of an exciting and vibrant university that provides all sorts of different experiences,” said , Mike Mahon the president and vice-chancellor of the University of Lethbridge.
A total of $103.5 million was raised. The campaign went public in 2018, but Mahon added that there had been behind-the-scenes work prior to the announcement.
“The notion of shining brighter together was about ensuring that as we went through this campaign, we looked to have synergies between our university and the needs of the community, both near and far,” he said.
Completing the fundraising goal during a global pandemic and a struggling provincial economy is something Mahon was quick to highlight, saying it shows the university’s importance to the community and Alberta as a whole.
“I think it says volumes about the extent to which post-secondary education and the University of Lethbridge are seen as important parts of the community.”
The money will be divided into four categories: illuminating opportunities (student experience), igniting minds (academic programming), shining new light (research relevance) and building a community of inspiring lights (connection to community).
About $46 million will go towards the student experience, including scholarships and mental health supports.
Carter Lewis is a first-year student at the university majoring in finance. He was the recipient of the Clint Dunford Award, given to someone who has demonstrated community involvement.
Lewis knows firsthand the importance of scholarships when it comes to post-secondary education.
“They’re a do-or-die kind of thing, I would almost say, because it’s expensive. Education’s expensive,” Lewis said.
“So anything that will ease the pressure will make a big, big difference, whether it’s $500, $800 or $25,000.”
Donations spanned from thousands of dollars to $15 million.
“The big gifts are important, but so too are the smaller gifts that are more grassroots and really supporting important initiatives all across campus,” Mahon said.
One he’s most proud of is the university creating supports for students during the pandemic, like through the COVID-19 Emergency Bursary.
And donors are excited to see the campaign come to a successful close. MNP in Lethbridge donated $100,000 over a four-year period.
“It’s such a good partnership because it fits with what we see, or think, the future needs will be for CPA and management students coming out,” said regional managing partner David Muryn.
“We support the communities we’re in. We get most of our team from out of the U of L and out of the management school, so we’re happy and proud to be part of this initiative.”
The University of Lethbridge saw a 5.8 per cent decrease to its funding as a result of the Alberta government’s 2021 post-secondary budget. Mahon is hoping the campaign’s success will shine a light on new opportunities for post-secondary institutions.
“We’ve known for a long, long time that the nature of post-secondary and the funding for post-secondary is going to become more challenging because of the Alberta economy,” he said.
“We know we have to be more entrepreneurial to find other sources of funding, and this campaign is evidence of trying to achieve that goal.”