Each year, members of the senior class at Lehigh University uphold the tradition of providing a class gift to give back to the school. Class officers develop an academic year campaign with fundraising activities to help the students meet their goal. In true Lehigh fashion, the Class of 2017 intends to go above and beyond by meeting President Simon’s challenge to have 780 members – or 65% of the class – donate to the cause.
If the class succeeds in meeting this challenge, Simon will donate an additional $2,017 to the gift fund. This is similar to the challenge given last year to the Class of 2016, who received $2,016 for exceeding 750 donors, or 60% of the class.
President Simon expressed his support for the class gift, “My message to these students is simple: give to what you are passionate about. Give because the next class of Lehigh students who walks onto our campus will benefit from your generosity and so that they can have the Lehigh experience that you had, to build on the legacy that your class has created. Give because it allows you to have a direct impact on our university. But most importantly, give because it is a way to express your pride in Lehigh."
The fundraising started with the annual Senior Class Gift Kick-off on September 8, which more than 200 students attended, and will continue throughout the year with various events such as senior night at a local restaurant, events and programs during Lehigh-Lafayette Spirit Week, and giving opportunities held during Grad Fair Days prior to graduation. “We’re trying to have at least one big thing per month,” said Samantha Tomaszewski ’17, vice president of giving. She added that, “One of our goals is class unity. Even if they don’t donate [at the event], we want to get people out and having fun.”
Chad Davis, senior director, Lehigh Fund, can attest to the effort that the senior class has put in already. “In general, I think that they’re doing really well. The senior class officers have done a really good job of rallying their classmates and engaging them to give back,” he said.
Although the class gift goal in the past was to raise a certain amount, in recent years, Lehigh has been counting the number of donors rather than the number of dollars raised. Students are encouraged to donate at least five dollars, but Tomaszewski said, “I don’t think it’s about the amount of the gift as much as the gesture. We say, ‘Give up your coffee one day, maybe save up – put away a dollar a week,’ if that’s all you’re able to do.”
Frederick Coleman, Class of 2017 president, agrees. “The Class Gift is about getting as much participation of the senior class in the tradition of giving back to their passions, such that the following generation may have the same opportunity,” he said.
Students who give larger donations are rewarded by being allowed to participate in exclusive events. Tomaszewski said that many students donate exactly $20.17 to join the 2017 Club, which gives donors access to special events throughout the year, including the popular Chicken Finger Fridays. Those who donate $100 or more earn membership in the Asa Packer Society, which recognizes the university’s most generous donors.
Lehigh is also unique in allowing students to designate where their gift goes. This option began with the Class of 2011. Donors can request that their gift benefit a certain club, Greek house, sports team, or other campus organization, which provides an even greater incentive for students to participate.
Continuing the tradition of a class gift year after year serves to remind students of the positive impact of giving back, as well as to perpetuate a sense of unity within the school.
“The class gift is important, because it is how we can build our legacy at Lehigh in our transition into becoming alumni of the university,” Coleman said. “It is the opportunity to support the organizations, athletic teams, academic departments, etc. that have been so instrumental in our college life. Even giving the smallest possible donation by one individual can go a long way for a student club.”