Senior Gift Committee: Rewarding Work with a Long History at W&L Many members of the Class of 2021 will participate in a long tradition of giving back to W&L.
As seniors prepare to graduate on Thursday, May 27, one of the ways they are celebrating is by making a gift to the Annual Fund. As they become alumni, more than 130 seniors are also becoming W&L philanthropists, honoring their college experience with a gift to the Annual Fund, which includes the option to recognize a favorite faculty or staff member through their contribution.
Many colleges and universities have Senior Gift programs, but few can lay claim to one with a history as long as W&L’s program. Seniors have been organizing efforts to give back to the university since at least the late 1920s. One such project that spanned several class years was raising money for the footbridge connecting the Law School and the College. Senior Gift is a rich tradition that today’s students embrace with enthusiasm.
“I realized that the mission of Senior Gift goes back many generations and that our donations help create experiences for students in the future.”
~ Lourdes Arana ’21
Rather than being project-focused, modern Senior Gift efforts support the Annual Fund, which this year includes an option to direct gifts to a specific area of the university.
Senior Gift Director Allison “Ally” Chebuhar ’21 manages 29 classmates who are members of the Senior Gift Committee, the organization in charge of setting goals and encouraging gifts from members of the senior class. Of the 29 members, five are lead class agents and have leadership roles in managing teams of associate class agents.
“Being a part of senior gift is just one small way I could give back,” Chebuhar said. “It is rewarding to see the senior class coming together and remembering the highlights of our W&L experiences and giving in honor of the memories that we will carry with us after we graduate.”
This year’s senior class has had to contend with extraordinary challenges brought on by COVID-19, including the financial difficulties faced by many in the current economic climate. They are not alone. In 1936, the Senior Gift was completely called into question because of financial strain students experienced.
Johnson Scholar and lead class agent Lourdes Arana ’21 noted that her committee work has strengthened her leadership and interpersonal skills. While it has been challenging, she particularly enjoyed call nights, when committee members reach out to their peers via telephone.
During one such opportunity, Arana spoke to one of her good friends, learning that she was a legacy student whose father graduated in 1978. Arana’s friend made her gift that night, sharing that she was excited to tell her dad.
“Hearing about that bond and helping my friend celebrate her family’s legacy was extremely impactful for me,” Arana said. “I realized that the mission of Senior Gift goes back many generations and that our donations help create experiences for students in the future.”
Lead class agent Courtney Berry ’21 enjoyed connecting with classmates during the 30 Days to Graduation event held at the end of April. Berry noted how refreshing it was to be able to gather together with her classmates again. More than 150 seniors attended the event.
Berry’s Senior Gift experience has been enlightening. “I learned that the Senior Gift supports much more than I realized, like helping the university adapt during COVID,” she said. A volleyball team captain, Berry also appreciated the opportunity to direct her Annual Fund gift. “I directed my gift to athletics, as being on the volleyball team was one of the most impactful experiences during my time at W&L,” she said. “Being part of an athletic team taught me so many lessons out of the classroom, and I want others to have that same experience.”
The Senior Gift Committee hopes to achieve a 70% total giving participation rate and has until the end of June to reach its goal. Arana reiterated that each gift, no matter the amount, makes a difference, celebrates the senior class and supports the W&L experience.
“It’s not about how much you give but about the fact that you gave at all,” she said.