Community leaders and West Texas A&M University (WT) staff gathered at the biannual steering committee meeting Thursday for updates on the “WT 125: From the Panhandle to the World” campaign, which aims to raise $125 million for the university.
Launched a year ago, the campaign was a comprehensive fundraising drive with the goal of reaching its goal by 2025. The university announced during the meeting that fundraising was ahead of its goal and had earned nearly $112 million since its launch. the campaign. In total, the university received $96 million in major gifts and another $15 million in annual donations to achieve its stated goal.
According to WT, more than 5,500 unique donors with 43,000 gifts have contributed to the campaign.
Three specific areas will be addressed in the fundraising campaign, with most of the funding to expand scholarship opportunities, professorships, and named presidencies. The two other areas that will receive funding will be programs to enhance academic offerings and improve existing infrastructure for building transformational spaces while improving existing buildings.
WT President Walter Wendler spoke about the success and importance of the campaign, with the impact and importance of the university to the future of the Panhandle.
“We’ve reached our target, and I think we’ll hit the target well ahead of schedule,” Wendler said. “We have really good energy at the moment, and people appreciate what we’re trying to achieve here with the university.”
Wendler said he feels the community has really been convinced of the university’s impact on the Texas Panhandle by focusing on issues that really matter to the people of the area. He said the university is already trying to focus on issues affecting the region, such as population scarcity and agricultural and industrial solutions.
We are not trying to solve urban issues in Houston or Dallas. We’re trying to solve rural issues that exist in West Texas, and address issues that really affect people in the Panhandle,” Wendler said. “We’re trying to support people who can improve our communities with our programs. We are constantly challenging our employees to get better students and faculty to benefit everyone.”
Wendler said one of the lessons he’s learned over the past year from the fundraising campaign is the importance of getting local support to buy into the university’s vision and priorities. He said the focus is not just on fundraising, but getting support from the community to encourage his students to come to WT.
While enrollment has fallen somewhat this year, Wendler stressed that lessons are being learned about how to recruit students at the university. Wendler said the main focus is to encourage high-achieving, dedicated students in the top 26 counties in the Texas Panhandle to see WT as a better option.
Citing the new One2Teach program, which is designed to make it easier for students in the area to become teachers, Wendler said the university is always looking for ways to create opportunities for students in the area that benefit the communities it serves, in particular. With half of its students from the Texas Panhandle and about 65% of its graduates choosing to stay in the area.
William Weir, President of Amarillo National Bank and member of the WT Steering Committee, spoke about his commitment to the university and the value it brings to the business community.
“It is important for the business community to have a qualified, talented and skilled workforce,” Ware said. “The only way we can do that is through high-quality education, and WT provides that. It is critical for our future that we can fill these jobs and train the workforce to meet the modern-day challenges that WT is preparing them for.”
Ware said his organization has seen individuals in its workforce from WT who have come in much better prepared for the workforce, with less training required to be able to perform at a high level.
“We place great importance on being able to hire locally,” Ware said. “We prefer hiring from places like WT rather than those outside of the region because of the personality type and understanding of the region their students come equipped with.”
Todd Rasberry, WT Vice President of Philanthropy and External Relations, spoke about the keys to the success of this campaign for the university.
“We have so many generous and kind donors who see the importance of WT to the future of the region, and are very engaged and ready to invest in the educational endeavors we offer,” Rasberry said.
Rasberry emphasized that the university is very clear about its mission to the Texas Panhandle, and this has resonated with potential donors, providing affordability to better serve its students.
“There is a view that we are a Panhandle; and by that, I mean that we take our region seriously as a defining property rather than a constraining one,” Rasberry said. “This creates a responsibility for us as a university in this region and an opportunity for us to find new ways to serve and benefit families in the region.”
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