Letter from the President

Letter from the President

Dear Friends,

We enjoyed a truly spectacular Alumni and Family Weekend on Oct. 23 – 25, with over 3,000 alumni, parents and students in attendance. An overcast Saturday morning became a crisp New England afternoon, and our new Rafferty Stadium enjoyed the largest crowd we have hosted to date with the FUSA concert by The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards, followed by contemporary artists Matt and Kim.

It was a particularly fun moment for me personally to introduce The Temptations — as their music transported me back to my own years as an undergraduate. Equally impressive was our Fairfield Rising Campaign Expo — a tent that featured all of the areas where we are making major innovations at the moment, which of many included the renovation of our Leslie C. Quick Jr. Recreation Complex, our new “smart” classrooms and exhibits that featured our students making an impact in their service learning activities.

We were also joined by Dakota — the therapy dog from our school of nursing —who made quite an impression, and performed her duties admirably with so many dog lovers wanting her attention. That is a very small taste of the scores of events for alumni and families over the weekend.

And I should add, that henceforth our nursing school will be called the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies. The most significant news that I have for you in this annual President’s Report edition of the Fairfield University Magazine is the formal, public launch of our Fairfield Rising capital campaign, that we announced in September, and about which you will read more inside. For the last few years we have been engaged in the “quiet” phase of this capital campaign, for which we will raise $160 million or more in order to elevate Fairfield University to a new level of excellence.

During the “quiet” or leadership phase of the campaign we received many significant gifts that have allowed us to get started, including  $10 million from our longtime trustee John Meditz ’70, which has allowed us to begin a major renovation of our RecPlex; a major gift from former trustee Larry Rafferty ’64 and his family, which has made our new stadium possible; and many other significant gifts which have put energy into our campaign.

One of the critical initiatives in our efforts is to significantly expand our health sciences areas, so that we can continue to be a leader in preparing students for careers in medicine, nursing and research. We were fortunate to receive a $10 million gift from former trustee Bill Egan’67 and his wife Jacalyn so that we can break ground on this new facility in the spring, and in their honor we have named our new facility in memory of his mother — Marion Peckham Egan.

And yet, as critical as these major gifts have been and will continue to be, it will take much more than that to reach our goal.  As I said to the crowd on Oct. 24, we will reach our goal thanks to the combined effort of the entire community. This campaign is first and foremost about participation, about raising the pace, level of energy and even raising the expectations concerning what we can achieve as a University that has a very clear mission to serve the greater good.

These are challenging — and exciting — times in higher education. The world is rapidly evolving and Fairfield needs to evolve in order to meet that challenge, and remain the agent of transformative change that we have the obligation to be. We need new programs. We need faster and more robust technology and new facilities so that our students are prepared for the world as it is today.

Most importantly, we need to be able to provide financial assistance to worthy students and their families. As you are certainly aware, the cost of a university education is escalating far faster than inflation in other sectors of the economy, and we have reached a point where — as I’ve said — the funding model is broken. As a University, we have made a commitment to do all we can to hold the line on increases in tuition and fees, because we have reached a ceiling in terms of what our families can afford, and we do not wish to become a University that excludes worthy students. Over the last ten years the University has dramatically increased the financial aid that we offer students and those funds have come in large part from our operating budget.

We need to grow our endowment so that we can continue to offer significant financial support on an ongoing basis and this is where a large portion of the $160 million that we wish to raise will be allocated.

So, we have to change our thinking as a community. It’s up to all of us now to work together to create an environment that supports the students of the future.

I’m happy to say that all of you are rising to meet this challenge. Thanks to the generosity of more than 13,800 alumni, parents and friends to date, the Fairfield Rising Campaign has received more than $116 million in philanthropic commitments at the time of this writing. Some have been able to give a little more, some a little less. But every dollar counts. Every dollar gets us closer to making our vision a reality.

As you will see inside, Fairfield Rising has actually been a great deal of fun for all of us, and I hope that you will be part of it. I have been on the road quite a bit with Wally Halas, our vice president for University Advancement. We have taken our message to alumni, parents and friends groups in Hartford, New York, Boston, Chicago and Washington D.C. over the last couple of months, and the response and the turnout for these events has been truly uplifting.

Inside these pages, you will find more details on the campaign — what our goals are — as well as information on how you can get involved. You can also learn more from going to our campaign website at fairfield.edu/fairfieldrising. If you haven’t visited the site yet, please do. There you will find informative and inspiring videos, as well as profiles of some of our donors, and photo galleries on our campaign events to date, and the schedule of future events.

Every generation rebuilds and recreates this institution — Fairfield University. It is always growing and changing to adapt to the times and to recalibrate its programming in order to serve our mission — a mission that is fundamentally unchanged. As the early Jesuit Pedro Ribadeneira said to the King of Spain when the king wanted to know why the Society of Jesus would want to build schools of all things, the answer was a clear and unequivocal one — “The proper education of our youth will mean the transformation of the whole world.” That sentiment is as valid in today’s world as it was for St. Ignatius and his companions all those years ago.


Jeffrey P. von Arx, S.J.