Largest Gifts in University History Pave Way for Future Growth

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Photo of Brian Ragen and Dennis Gipson.Largest Gifts in University History Pave Way for Future Growth

By Elizabeth Hise Brennan

Two exceptional gifts to Fontbonne University have set the tone for the year’s fundraising goals — and for the long-term planning and investment in Fontbonne’s future. A commitment from Board Chair Dennis Gipson, retired chief executive officer and president of Hussman Corporation, pledges a seven-figure gift to Fontbonne, the largest in the university’s history. And a commitment from Brian Abel Ragen, board member and Southern Illinois University Edwardsville professor emeritus, pledges a seven-figure total via annual gifts and estate planning, establishing an endowed chair in the humanities.

Gipson’s gift is primarily a capital investment in the Fontbonne University West campus, which will help the university bring its bold vision for the new campus to life. As the lead trustee of the university, he hopes his gift offers an example for others as well.

“I believe Fontbonne is a special place that not only prepares students to succeed in their chosen fields, but also enriches their spirit along with their intelligence,” says Gipson, who views his gift as an investment — in the institution, in the community and in the lives of individual students. “If you feel a sense of reward watching great young students thrive in an environment like Fontbonne’s, and then watch them do good things for hundreds or perhaps thousands of others throughout their long careers, then this might be a great place to compound your ‘community interest’ too.”

Ragen benefited from a liberal arts education at a small institution, and his gift reflects his ardent belief that such an education is foundational for success, especially in today’s fast-paced world.

“At Fontbonne, my gift makes the essential education I found so valuable possible for students who might otherwise be unable to afford to attend a small liberal arts college,” Ragen says. “To help students gain the riches to be found in the liberal arts in a spirit of eagerness, thoughtfulness and reverence is my goal as a trustee and a donor, and I firmly believe that is the goal of Fontbonne University as well.”

Fontbonne is geared toward growth in the coming years. The new West County campus is under initial renovations, the rollout of a new brand and advertising campaign will capture greater attention and awareness, and the university is educating the largest and most diverse freshman class it has seen in a decade. As Fontbonne prepares to celebrate its centennial, the university community is also preparing for another 100 years of educating students to serve a world in need. None of it is possible, however, without the support of the university’s dedicated alumni and ambassadors.

“Our work in advancement is to show individuals the joy of philanthropy,” said Kitty Nangle Lohrum, vice president for advancement. “Fundraising is about inviting people to make a difference, and at Fontbonne we do that very well — through our faculty, our students and our impact on our community. Generous commitment from our trustees, through both volunteer leadership and donations, is imperative to our success.”

To contribute to the future growth of Fontbonne University and to help its students soar higher, please contact Kitty Nangle Lohrum at klohrum@fontbonne.edu or 314-889-4701.

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