University Foundation Finishes Fiscal Year with More than $5 Million in Gifts

COLUMBUS, Ga. — Despite a struggling economy, Columbus State University finished the fiscal year with more $5.4 million in private gifts to support the institution and its students and faculty.

Of that amount, $2.9 million was raised through the Annual Fund, representing another record-breaking total for that drive, which raised $2.07 million the previous year.

“As we continue to deal with budget cuts that have substantially impacted state appropriations over the past four years, private giving has become even more critical for us to sustain our path toward excellence,” said university President Tim Mescon. “Learning we raised more than $5.4 million last year is a bit humbling because it clearly shows how much our supporters care about this university and believe in the impact we are making.”

The total raised by the CSU Foundation during its most recent fiscal year, which ended July 30, was an increase over the $5.04 million in private giving logged the year before.

Money raised went to a variety of academic efforts, student scholarships, program endowments and faculty assistance directives. Seven new endowments were created, five of which will support student scholarships, and 21 existing endowments received additional gifts.

“I think that people over time have become more and more impressed with what's happening at Columbus State University and the progress we've made even in bad economic times -- the growth in enrollment and the overall great reputation," said George Jeter, a retired Aflac executive who chaired the development committee last year as a member of the CSU Foundation Board of Trustees.

He also said that Columbus State benefits from its long history of solid town-gown relations -- "what the university's become to the community.".

"When industry looks for a new location, the first thing they look for is quality schools and health care. I think Columbus has been at the forefront in both those areas," he said.

An example of that is the continuing support by Columbus Regional Healthcare System and St. Francis Hospital of Columbus State University’s School of Nursing.

The two organizations gave significantly to the university last year as part of their $1 million commitment to CSU’s nursing program. The goal is to increase the number of nursing graduates and raise the level of nursing education in Columbus, in part to meet a 22 percent increase in the demand for registered nurses statewide over the next eight years, projected by the Georgia Department of Labor.

The financial support from the hospitals has allowed the School of Nursing to make progress toward achieving competitive salaries for full-time faculty. This adjustment is vital to the recruitment of excellent faculty and will help narrow the salary gap between clinical and academic positions. The school also has expanded the Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, expanded an online RN-to-BSN program and developed a new, mostly online master’s in nursing in collaboration with Clayton State University.

Among the more noteworthy gifts last year was a planned gift from the J. Barnett Woodruff foundation and an investment in downtown from the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation. The Fort Foundation gift will allow the university to build three new apartments in the Broadway Crossing student apartment building that will serve as residences for visiting faculty members who are in Columbus to teach a semester or two at CSU. Such designated living arrangements make Columbus State University even more attractive as its leaders look to bring in visiting scholars from around the world to spend time with local students.

These are just a sampling of the private gifts that came in last year during an effort that was led by the trustees of the CSU Foundation, organized in 1963 as a legally separate vehicle for securing funds for scholarships, special needs and enrichment programs for only Columbus State University.

Phil Tomlinson, chairman of the board and chief executive officer of TSYS, chaired the foundation’s Board of Trustees last year.

“It was an honor to serve as chair of the CSU Foundation Board this past year and I thank my fellow board members for their commitment to the university and their work in securing vital financial support for our university,” Tomlinson said. “In addition the efforts of the board, I need to also thank our alumni and friends, who understand how their support makes a significant difference for our students and faculty each year.“.

Mescon said he expects the university and the foundation will build upon its success in future under the direction of Alan Medders, the new vice president of university advancement who started July 1.

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