By Anne Klockenkemper
CatholicU, Fall 2023
Kendra Dunn’s life — and the lives of those she now cares for as a critical care nurse — changed with a single moment: a phone call offering her a scholarship to attend The Catholic University of America.
“I had 24 hours to decide whether I wanted to accept a full ride to the School of Nursing, courtesy of a generous scholarship donor,” Dunn, B.S.N. 2020, said. “Needless to say, I was made an offer I could not refuse! Becoming a critical care nurse is really what brought me closer to Christ and grew my appreciation for life tenfold. I have my scholarship to thank for that. My years at CatholicU were the best four years of my life. I received an education beyond my wildest dreams from professors who impacted my life far beyond the classroom.”
That one call, she said, put her on a career trajectory where she found herself holding the “hands of the dying during the COVID-19 surges” and comforting some of the sickest patients in the hospital where she works.
The scholarship Dunn received was made possible by University Trustee Bill Conway and his wife, Joanne, who are also the benefactors of the Conway School of Nursing. That is just one example of the impact made by 28,654 unique donors who contributed to the University’s largest fundraising campaign in history, totaling $518,544,740. There were notably 16,975 first-time donors. More than $90 million was given by corporate and foundation partners.
The success of Light the Way: The Campaign for Catholic University — and recognition of the generosity of donors — was celebrated at a June 5 event, called Lux, that marked the conclusion of the Campaign, which far surpassed the original $400 million goal proposed at the outset in 2019.
University President Peter K. Kilpatrick said that he was grateful for the leadership and foresight of his predecessor, former University President John Garvey, in starting the Campaign as it unleashed a wellspring of magnanimity among those who support the University and its mission.
“I am so moved by the generosity of the entire Catholic University Cardinal family that has made our community’s transformation possible. Whether you gave $1,000 or $10 million, every gift mattered in the lives of our young people and our University,” President Kilpatrick said. “This Campaign entailed a huge effort by our entire community. But tonight isn’t just about dollars and cents. Raising money was the goal, yes, but it wasn’t the objective. The core messaging of our Campaign centered on people and promise. About changing lives through education and opportunity.”
There are now a half a billion ways that students, faculty, and staff have been positively impacted by the Campaign as various speakers spoke of other critical areas that were funded.
Arranged around three central fundraising themes — student success, faculty excellence, and academic environment — the Campaign exceeded its goals for each, with $119.2, $143.8, and $156.2 million respectively being raised in those areas. The Campaign also generated $30 million in support of graduate student scholarships and stipends, raised $83 million in funding for research, $88 million in undergraduate scholarships, and $118.3 million for University-wide priorities and unrestricted support.
During the June celebration, Board of Trustees Chair Victor Smith, J.D. 1996, and Campaign Co-chairs Joe Carlini, B.M.E. 1984, and Enrique Segura, also a Trustee, along with President Kilpatrick, outlined how each school and the Department of Athletics received millions of dollars as a result of donor generosity.
The physical campus was transformed through gifts that made possible the construction of Carlini Field, the Garvey Hall Dining Commons, and the new nursing and sciences building for the Conway School of Nursing, which is scheduled to be completed next year. Screens on both sides of the room showed photos of progress made on these projects, as well as highlights from endowed chair installations throughout the life of the Campaign.
In a video outlining the improvements to physical spaces and the University’s expansion through the Alexandria, Va., and Tucson, Ariz., campuses, a number of University students talked about their love for the Catholic University campus and voiced their appreciation to the 300-plus people in the room.
University Provost Aaron Dominguez also noted the way the Campaign supported faculty, especially through the creation of endowed professorships and graduate stipends. Holding an endowed chair is the highest honor in academia, he explained, with the position funded in perpetuity.
“At the start of the Campaign, Catholic University had 12 fully endowed chairs,” Dominguez said. “During Light the Way, we set a goal to add 12 more endowed chairs, to double that number to 24.”
Now through the generosity of donors, 16 new endowed chairs were added during this Campaign, for a total of 28 endowed chairs across the University.
The success and impact of the Campaign has not gone unnoticed. At the Lux event, then-Archbishop Christophe Pierre, apostolic nuncio to the United States, read a letter from Pope Francis praising Catholic University and the Campaign, and recognizing how the University is fulfilling its mission. The letter also recalled the Pope’s visit to campus in 2015 for the canonization Mass of St. Junipero Serra, offered a blessing to the University community, and shared hope that the University would continue to thrive.
“I congratulate The Catholic University of America on its successful campaign and encourage its continued contribution to the Church’s ministry of evangelization,” the Holy Father wrote.
“Giving of our time and resources to help others is a concrete sign of charity for our neighbor that marks us as disciples of Jesus Christ (cf. Jn 13:35). Thanks to such generosity, students, faculty, and staff, both present and future, will be enabled to join together in advancing the truth and joy of the Gospel, promoting a culture of encounter and fostering the authentic and integral growth of the human family (cf. Veritatis Gaudium, 1) through scholarly research, teaching, and open and fraternal dialogue. In this way, the University will maintain its strong Catholic identity and continue to be a light within society, offering the beauty of the Christian message to a world athirst for hope and new life.”