Columbus State University Announces 'First Choice' Comprehensive Campaign with $100 Million Goal


COLUMBUS, Ga. – Columbus State University today officially announced its “First Choice Campaign,” a comprehensive effort designed to raise at least $100 million to create an academic and collegiate environment that will cement CSU’s status as a favored destination for top students and faculty.

First Choice Campaign Kickoff

Goals for the campaign have evolved over the past 18 months after extensive collaboration and discussion with academic deans and their departments. While there are some building projects in the plan – such as a new downtown home for the College of Education and Health Professions, the Bo Bartlett Center, a private match for a new state laboratory science building, and a business building addition – the underlying goals of the campaign are to create a solid infrastructure within the university to attract and retain leading faculty and students, fund student scholarships, and develop and enhance academic programs to solve real-world problems. The campaign also aims to help Columbus State University’s quest to distinguish itself on a national scale and become a first choice for discerning students and faculty.

More than $61 million has already been raised toward these objectives.

Phil Tomlinson, chairman of the board of TSYS, is the volunteer leader for Columbus State’s campaign.

“I saw firsthand how Columbus State University helped our company, how our partnership with the university literally kept TSYS in Columbus,” Tomlinson said. “I can testify as to how a successful university here is good for the community, its people and the economic vitality of this region. I’m very excited about the vision for this campaign.”

Each CSU academic unit, including the new Honors College, is seeking funding for student scholarships and to enhance programs and professorships. Additionally, annual giving is built into each unit’s fundraising goals to support ongoing expenses such as student travel, study abroad, faculty development, athletics, lab costs and outreach education efforts at CSU’s Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, Coca-Cola Space Science Center and Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians.

“The fact that this campaign has such a strong focus on academic programs makes it very special,” said Interim President Tom Hackett. “Deans have worked with faculty members to identify what it will take to make Columbus State a leader in higher education. In addition to what is planned in the comprehensive campaign, over $50 million in construction projects are planned for main campus through state funding or public-private ventures.”

Alan Medders, Columbus State’s vice president for university advancement and the main architect behind the campaign, said the time is right to announce the public phase of this campaign.

“We are already almost two-thirds of the way toward our goal,” Medders said. “Based on the history of private giving to Columbus State University, we have no doubt that we’ll be successful. We have built a compelling story that we think will resonate with our alumni, community and supporters.”

He noted that CSU’s last campaign, called an “Investment in People,” had an original goal of $67 million that turned into a goal of $85 million. When the fireworks exploded in November 2005 marking the end of that campaign, gifts and pledges totaled just more than $100 million.

Jimmy Yancey, retired chairman of the board of Synovus Financial Corp., led the Investment in People Campaign. He said he is assisting Tomlinson with the First Choice Campaign because he knows how much the previous campaign accomplished for CSU and believes this campaign will build on that momentum.

“I believe CSU can continue to grow into an institution of regional and national prominence – to truly be a ‘first choice’ for top students and faculty members,” Yancey said. “I saw the tremendous support we had in the last campaign. That sentiment still exists. And with all the projects now planned or under way, and a new president coming in later this year, there are many reasons to be excited about Columbus State University’s future.”

One major campaign project already under way is moving Columbus State’s College of Education and Health Professions to downtown Columbus, a move that will further expand the university’s popular RiverPark campus with an extra 1,800 students, faculty and staff.

Entirely with private donations, the university’s real estate foundation, Foundation Properties, Inc., purchased the home of the Ledger-Enquirer newspaper just before Christmas and is working with Barnes, Gibson & Patel Architects to preserve and renovate the historic part of the building, with demolition and new construction planned at the corner of Broadway and West 12th Street.

The project is estimated to cost up to $25 million. More than $18 million has been secured so far.

“Obviously, finishing the fund-raising for the new education building is an immediate priority,” Tomlinson said. “Also important is educating our alumni and friends that these projects – and the other renovations or constructions planned – are not just about new buildings; they are about providing our university with learning spaces that will allow faculty in all programs to engage students, embrace students and educate students in the best possible ways.”

For more information about the First Choice Campaign, please visit