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Advancement News

Smaller Gifts Create Big Possibilities for Kent State Students

Posted Jan. 4, 2011
Kent State Students

Alumna Amanda Valko, '01, this year is making her first contribution to Kent State's Annual Fund. And her $20 gift to the Department of Anthropology has a large impact.

That's because gifts less than $1,000 add up: Last year, Kent State donors who contributed less than $1,000 collectively gave more than $2.8 million — an increase of 11 percent over the previous year. And the number of donors of that size climbed by more than 1,800, back to levels not seen since the Great Recession began.

Many of these contributions came in through the university's PhoneCenter, where student callers contact alumni to give them Kent State updates, and learn if they're interested in making a gift. Donors are sometimes surprised to discover that they can allocate their gift toward their priorities — whether that's scholarships, athletics, or any college, school or department within the university. And each donor has his or her motivation for giving, which may include helping Kent State raise its national and international rankings — alumni participation is a key measure in those calculations.

Several of the current student callers shared what they're hearing from alumni.

Kait Fenstermaker, a fashion major, says donors often tell her they want to give back to the institution that allowed them to be successful in their careers. James Continenza, an education and history senior,notes that someof the alumni he has spoken to have told him they support Kent State to make it an even a better place than they found it. AndSara Lemmeier, a senior interior-design major,credits the ongoing Centennial Campaign because alumni tell her they want to make Kent State's next 100 years as excellent as the first 100.

Albert Melfo, director of annual giving, agrees with Lemmeier.

"In times of economic uncertainty, we all prioritize our charitable support," he says. "The Centennial Campaign built a case for the future of Kent State, and our donors have endorsed that vision through increased support of our students, our research and our capital projects."

For alumna Valko, the call from a student reminded her how her graduate school experience at Kent State changed her life path. Her first career was as a registered dietitian, but archaeology had been her amateur hobby for years. So when she was laid off from her job, she found field work with various archaeology organizations and businesses. But because she didn't have an appropriate degree, there was little opportunity for growth.

Four long years of commuting from her home in New Castle, Pa., to Kent State — while working a full-time job in the laboratory at Michael Baker Corp. — changed all of that.

"Once I got my master's at Kent State, they moved me out of the lab," Valko says. "Without the degree, I'd probably be stuck as a field tech at the age of 53. It gets harder and harder, the older you get, to dig hours and hours a day."

Eventually, her company moved her back to the lab — but this time to lead it, something she says her Kent State master's degree helped her achieve. So now, she's decided to be a part of the Centennial Campaign by giving to the Annual Fund.

"I figured, time to give back to the university that helped me out," she says, "that helped me advance in my career."


To contribute to the Centennial Campaign through the Annual Fund, visit