A Fund Fit for All

October 26, 2021

By Laura J. Cole ’04 ’08MLS

A half-completed puzzle featuring the Rollins campus
Photo by Scott Cook.

From meeting urgent needs to supporting hands-on learning experiences, The Rollins Annual Fund is a key piece of the puzzle.

While many students struggled during the pandemic and lamented the loss of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities from their first Fox Day to walking across the commencement stage, Logo Olagoke ’23 worried that he wouldn’t be able to finish his degree.

The pandemic had devastated the economy in his home country of Nigeria, and as the exchange rate plummeted for the naira, Nigeria’s currency, so did his hopes of returning to Rollins.

“I knew it was going to be hard for my family to support my education and that I would have to leave Rollins,” says the computer science major.

Concerned about his future, Olagoke began applying to other colleges in between classes and, in a fortuitous twist, told his academic advisor what was happening. She was able to work with the financial aid office to secure the money he needed to continue his studies thanks to support from The Rollins Annual Fund.

No longer concerned about paying for college, Olagoke is thriving once again. He spent the summer completing a software engineering internship at Amazon in Seattle and is back on campus this fall, continuing his studies, serving as an RA in the new Lakeside Neighborhood, and contributing to the code that is powering the College of Liberal Arts’ website as a work-study student in Rollins’ marketing office. Rather than worrying, he’s back to pursuing his dream of becoming a software engineer for a company where his contributions can make a great impact on people’s lives.

None of that would have been possible without donor support. Year after year, Rollins is able to provide life-changing opportunities and career-defining experiences to students like Olagoke because of gifts to The Rollins Annual Fund. Unrestricted annual giving empowers Rollins to support all of the things that make Rollins unique—from exceptional faculty mentors and immersive hands-on learning to championship athletics and a campus that inspires creativity, community, and collaboration.

“Trends have changed as generations have changed. People like to know where their money is going, but there’s still a great need for that pure unrestricted giving,” says Andria Silva, senior director of alumni engagement and annual giving. “Giving to The Rollins Annual Fund provides the College the flexibility it needs to fund the greatest needs as they shift. Last year, that was financial aid and related expenses arising from the pandemic.”

The ability to respond nimbly to unforeseeable challenges is among the chief reasons why the Brighter Together campaign is aiming to raise an additional $3 million for the annual fund, ensuring not only the financial stability of Rollins but that the College remains affordable—and can provide a range of experiences—for all students.

a puzzle featuring students in a science laba puzzle featuring students in a science lab
Photo by Scott Cook.

Adaptability in Action

Eric Marshall ’91 recalls feeling anxious as he watched Rollins’ commencement from his couch beside his daughter, Grace ’20, in May 2020.

“Grace had a really successful career at Rollins, and we were looking forward to watching her graduate, and at the time we felt like, ‘oh my gosh, this is such a terrible thing.’ The reality is that she lost the last few months of college and graduation,” says Marshall. “But one of the things that made it less difficult was the way she handled it. She was just grateful for her college experience, and she didn’t dwell on this one thing because she felt like she got so much out of her four years. That’s one of the things that we really love about Rollins.”

Marshall credits the College’s ability to adapt quickly to the challenges of the pandemic as one of the reasons Grace—who’s now in graduate school at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies—didn’t focus on all that she missed. And for that, he’s thankful.

“I was impressed with just how quickly the school established testing, established an on-campus plan, and adapted to, you know, a hybrid learning environment,” he says. “It was just extraordinary.”

A big part of why Rollins was able to pivot so quickly and efficiently was the flexibility afforded from gifts to The Rollins Annual Fund. When the need arose, Rollins had a pool of resources readily available from which to pull to keep the community safe. Those unrestricted gifts enabled Rollins to hire an additional nurse for the Wellness Center. They allowed for on-campus PCR tests that provided results in 30 minutes—with separate sites for asymptomatic and symptomatic individuals. They paid for contact tracers who reached out to anyone who had been within six feet of a person who tested positive for more than 15 minutes. They covered enhanced cleanings on campus and PPE for students. And they helped secure some of the digital technology that made the transition to remote learning possible, ensuring that the College was still able to deliver its signature brand of liberal arts education in the face of great uncertainty.

And that flexibility is by design. As with any business, universities try to plan for all possible financial scenarios to ensure their longevity, but unforeseen circumstances such as a global pandemic or fluctuations in the economy will happen. In a typical year, some items are nice-to-haves but simply aren’t feasible within the annual budget.

“As a result of the rapid pace of change in our society, there is always something,” says Deborah Crown, dean of the Crummer Graduate School of Business. “We have to be adaptive and we have to be prepared. The annual fund really helps us pursue initiatives that are needed in real time and beta-test others so that we remain on the front edge. We are so appreciative of our alumni and other community leaders who support this fund, which offers that type of necessary flexibility.”

That could be scholarships for students in need, such as Olagoke. But it could also be any number of items that boost the academic experience and help prepare students for meaningful lives and productive careers—from study abroad opportunities and library resources to mentorship programs and career services initiatives.

a puzzle featuring a Rollins basketball gamea puzzle featuring a Rollins basketball game
Photo by Scott Cook.

Support What You Love

If you’ve ever sat along the shores of Lake Virginia and watched the Rollins sailboats glide by, you have The Rollins Annual Fund to thank for that. Specifically, you have the athletics designation within the annual fund to thank. It is one of six primary impact areas where alumni and donors can direct their donations to the areas that matter most to them.

“We are currently raising money for new sailboats for the sailing team, and money from the athletics annual fund allows us to buy equipment that attracts recruits and helps student-athletes become better, stronger, and faster,” says athletics director Pennie Parker.

Past examples of equipment purchased through annual fund donations include squat racks and free weights. It includes the power tower, which helps members of the swimming teams train in the pool with extra resistance. And it includes shooting machines for the basketball teams, which the players call “the guns,” that allow team members to practice free throws and three-pointers whenever they want.

The funds also make it possible for student-athletes to travel to compete against teams outside of the region and their division.

“These trips expose players to different levels of competition, which always helps challenge us and makes us better,” says Parker. “But they also provide cultural experiences for students.”

Whether it’s visiting the White House in Washington, D.C., attending a luau in Hawaii, or visiting the Alamo in San Antonio, these opportunities outside the classroom add dimension and perspective to a student’s repertoire of experience.

Each of the program-focused designated areas—Athletics, Rollins Museum of Art, Crummer Fund, and Holt Fund—allows the program director or dean to support students and enhance the overall student journey.

For the museum, the financial support enables curators to cover the costs of programming that aren’t covered by the annual budget or to fund entire exhibitions, such as the upcoming From Chaos to Order: Greek Geometric Art from the Sol Rabin Collection—on loan from the Tampa Museum of Art—which showcases the culture, ideologies, and values of pre-classical Greece.

“Ancient Greek sculpture is not part of our permanent collection, and we always try to show art that our students don’t get exposed to on a regular basis,” says museum director Ena Heller. “My vision for the next few years is to continue to solidify the museum’s growing role within a Rollins education.”

For the Crummer Fund, Crown has used the resources toward everything from orientation experiences and the Five Factor Model personality assessment tests to scholarships and mentoring programs.

The Hamilton Holt School uses gifts and donations primarily for scholarships for its adult working learners and hopes to expand the newly established Finish Line awards, which help these students—who are either considering leaving Rollins or recently had to drop out due to financial hardship—finish or resume their studies.

“The cost of attendance should never be a barrier to coming to Holt, and the annual fund contributes to that overarching goal,” says Rob Sanders, dean of the Hamilton Holt School.

an almost completed puzzle featuring the Rollins campusan almost completed puzzle featuring the Rollins campus
Photo by Scott Cook.

Compounding Value

As a longtime donor to The Rollins Annual Fund, Marshall knows the benefit of every dollar. Even as he worried about the impact of the pandemic on his daughters’ experiences and as he paid for both their tuitions, he continued contributing.

“One of the best things about being involved is that I still feel a part of this place that provided such an amazing experience for me,” says Marshall, senior vice president for resort sales and marketing at Universal Orlando Resort and co-chair of The Rollins Annual Fund. “The student body is so impressive now, and helping to give them what they need to be successful is just a really worthwhile endeavor.”

He admits that for him it was never about making large donations, though he hopes to make more of those once his youngest daughter graduates. It was more about remaining connected to his alma mater.

And there’s power that comes from banding together with other alumni. It’s in the overall collective impact. A gift of $100 may not feel like much, but combine it with $100 from four classmates, and the College can cover transportation for the basketball team to the White House. Combine it with $100 from 40 other alumni, and a Holt student, say, can get the $4,000 she needs to stay focused on her studies and graduate on time.

The reality is that the combined total is greater because some are able to give $5, while others can give $5,000 or more. And that’s because the collective impact of every gift—regardless of size—spans out across campus and beyond, positively improving the experience of virtually every student and the communities they will transform.

“It’s not just about the amount that you give individually,” says Silva. “It’s about the cumulative impact of all the donations together that allow for success stories like Logo’s. And thanks to donors, every year we have more and more of those stories.”

A self-described go-getter, Olagoke is focused again on his studies and working to secure another internship this summer, maybe at Amazon again or possibly Google.

“I hope donors know that their investments aren’t in vain,” says Olagoke. “It meant a lot coming back to Rollins. I really didn’t want to leave.”

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