By Sarah Carlson, Staff Writer
Dr. Michelle Morris has her hands full.
Morris, assistant vice president of University and Alumni Relations, serves as coordinator for the Centennial Celebration, has helped create the infrastructure for the celebration and works closely with 10 task forces that plan and implement the celebration activities.
The celebration is part of the Centennial Campaign, a fund-raiser for the university that will end in 2006, the 100th anniversary of ACU.
Morris is not alone in her efforts. Many administrators are already planning events and working on fund raising.
The Centennial Campaign, titled “Called to Faith and Excellence,” intends not only to raise money for campus improvements but also to celebrate and unify the university.
ACU’s Centennial has three parts, Morris said in an e-mail: the Vision, the Campaign and the Celebration.
The vision of the Centennial Campaign describes the university’s future through 2006, Morris said.
“We consider the Centennial Celebration a time to honor people, past and present, who have helped ACU succeed, as well as to look to the future and envision what the second century holds for the university,” Morris said.
Phil Boone, director of the Centennial Campaign, said those involved with the fund-raising campaign are dedicated to “creating the more excellent student and graduate.”
ACU opened its doors in 1906 as Childers Classical Institute, named after Col. J.W. Childers, who sold land for the campus to founder A.B. Barrett with the condition that the school bear his name.
The school’s name was changed to Abilene Christian College in 1920 after a settlement with the Childers family. In 1976 ACC became Abilene Christian University.
In a meeting faculty and staff, Dr. John Tyson, vice president for Development and Alumni Relations, said the campaign and celebration are intended to encourage, inspire and remind everyone of why they are at the university.
“‘To educate students for Christian service and leadership throughout the world’ is a very simple statement that has become more and more meaningful to me,” Tyson said. “For nearly 100 years, our forefathers have been faithful to that mission-that’s rare. It’s up to us to insure that those who follow us are faithful as well.”
Lindsey Miller, sophomore speech pathology major from Houston, said she is proud to be a member of the Centennial class.
“I was thinking about graduating early,” Miller said, “but decided not to so that I can be a part of the festivities.”
Miller said she hopes several Chapels are devoted to commemorating the history of ACU and that the 2006 graduation will be “special and unique.”
“I would like to see the students show a stronger sense of connection with ACU’s history,” Miller said.
The goal for the Centennial Campaign is to raise $150 million by Dec. 31, 2006.
Endowment for programs and scholarships will make up $95 million of the final goal.
Capital projects for new buildings and renovations will comprise $39.9 million of the total. Boone said a major component will be the proposed Alumni Welcome Center and Academic Building.
A lighted jogging track around the campus also has been proposed.
The last $16.4 million will go toward the Annual Fund that covers annual expenses.
The money contributed will come from a variety of sources.
Brent Magner, director of the Centennial Campaign, said individuals will provide the largest share of donations. Funding will also come through “corporate matching gift programs, foundation grants and other organizations,” Magner said.
Magner said he helps coordinate close to 80,000 contacts with the university’s alumni, parents and friends every year.
Last fall, an anonymous donor set a goal at $250,000 for alumni to fundraise, promising to match that total if accomplished. Magner said the office has met the goal and has raised it to $350,000 by May 31.
“Anytime when people know when they give they can double the impact of the gift, they like knowing about it,” Magner said.
Boone said response to the campaign has been positive.
“People want to give financially to express appreciation to people who were significant to them while they were here, such as friends, teachers and coaches,” Boone said.
“You only turn 100 once,” Boone said. “This is a significant milestone in the life of any university.”
Boone said the campaign and celebration go together, and that the university would not have the Campaign without the Celebration.
Te Celebration is perhaps the most significant goal outside the fund raising, he said.
“Our goal is to strengthen the existing connections and reconnect alumni and friends of the university through this Centennial that have weakened or become disconnected over the years,” Boone said.
Morris said the Centennial Celebration “provides a year during which the entire ACU community will honor our heritage and prepare for our next 100 years.”
Boone said existing traditions will be increased, and that he hopes to begin events that will contribute to the university’s second century.
“Our intent is to make traditional parts of every year more robust, a greater celebration,” Boone said.
The Centennial year for the university is also Abilene’s 125th birthday, and Morris said she hopes to find ways to partner with the community to celebrate both.
Morris said plans have been made to partner with the Abilene Philharmonic and the Grace Museum for a concert and special exhibits.
Other smaller projects include a coffee-table book, special Centennial merchandise and speakers of national or international stature, Morris said.
She said those planning the Centennial hope to recognize the class of 2006 with special events during Commencement and something on the diplomas. She added that other projects such as special shirts to wear throughout the year are under consideration.
Amber Witcher, sophomore education major from Brownwood, will graduate in May 2006 and said she would like to see alumni come to campus and talk about their experiences at ACU.
“I think it will be neat to say that we participated in the 100th anniversary of ACU,” Witcher said. “I am very excited, but I’m also a dork when it comes to stuff like that.”