Scholarships succeed due to crowdfunding

Gillian Mazur, Sports editor

For the fourth year in a row, Mercyhurst University has announced its fourth round of crowdfunding projects. This year, the University has chosen to focus on two projects specifically, the Karen Christensen Williams Memorial Scholarship and the Class of 2020 Mike Folga Legacy Scholarship.

Both of these campaign projects are made possible via a “crowd” of donors and will go towards helping students with their greatest need, financial aid.

These scholarships are named after two longtime Mercyhurst employees who passed in 2019.

“We lost two very special members of our campus community in 2019, and felt these were two very fitting opportunities to remember their legacies at Mercyhurst,” Ryan Palm, Associate Vice President for Advancement, said.

Working in conjunction with the academic, athletic and other departments around campus, the Office of University Advancement seeks to find the needs around campus and works to create a solution. Careful consideration is taken when selecting projects, whether physical or monetary, to help provide a better campus experience for the students.

Projects from the past include a 2016 coaches boat for Rowing, a wine bottling lab for Hospitality Management in 2017 and in 2018, a newly renovated space for the Fashion Department.

Differing from a Kickstarter or GoFundMe, all donations made to crowdfunding are still given to its respective program regard-less of if the goal is met.

According to Palm, over the past four years, nearly 500 donors have given over $66,000 to the University’s projects.

“It’s amazing to see how wide-ranging the support is each year. We always have brand new supporters as well as our tried and true supporters,” Palm said.

Palm does several jobs relating to the fundraising efforts including supporting the Leadership Giving for the Mercyhurst Annual Fund, giving donors major gifts when defined by a certain pledge amount. Palm also oversees the crowdfunding program, working closely with Director of Alumni Engagement, Lindsay Frank.

Between the two scholarship campaigns this year, there have been nearly 100 donors raising over $12,000, beating the $10,000 goal total. “We love being able to show our supporters just how their gifts are being used,” Frank said. “We look forward to showing the supporters from this year’s projects the students who receive these scholarships in the future.”

Many people helped to support both of this year’s projects such as Paul Jessup in Information Technology, the faculty and staff who share the projects on social media, as well as the Class of 2020 Senior Class Gift Committee who worked tirelessly to promote the Mike Folga Legacy Scholarship.

“We received support from dozens of alumni, students, par-ents, employees and friends of the University,” Palm said.

To honor the legacy of the late Professor Karen Christensen Williams, Mercyhurst University has named the Karen Christensen Williams Memorial Scholarship in her honor. A beloved member of the Mercyhurst Department of World Languages and Cultures, Williams worked at Mercyhurst for nearly 23 years and passed away last April due to breast cancer.

In order to launch the scholarship, Williams’ parents made a generous donation to endow it and the Office of Advancement set a special one-week goal of $5,000 by Jan. 1. This goal was not only achieved but surpassed by 105%, collecting $5,255 in total.

This scholarship will help benefit students majoring or minoring in Spanish with a 3.0 GPA minimum. Preference will be given to rising junior Spanish Education majors, then Spanish majors followed by Spanish minors.

Once again, the Mercyhurst Community is coming together to help honor the legacy of the late Mike Folga. Last year, the school hosted “Fighting for Folgs,” a fundraising event to help the beloved hockey equipment manager Mike Folga in his battle against cancer. Folga passed last August but his kindness and willingness to serve have not and will not be forgotten.

Moved by his journey, the Class of 2020 chose to name and endow their scholarship after him as their Senior Class Gift.

Since 1989, every senior class has historically bestowed a gift to Mercyhurst to bid farewell to their alma mater. In order to give a more sustainable gift, since 2018, the senior class has given their gift in the form of a scholarship.

Starting on Oct. 25, the Senior Class Gift Committee hosted a series of fundraising events to collect enough money.

This scholarship will help benefit a student who actively supports Mercyhurst but encounters a major setback that could affect his or her education such as an illness, accident, family problem or financial problem.

Frank, advisor to the Senior Class Gift Committee, meets weekly with the committee to plan fundraisers and events. Frank worked very closely with the Committee to reach their goal of creating an endowed scholarship.

With the crowdfunding efforts ending on Feb. 1, the Senior Class Gift Committee’s goal was surpassed by 132% earning a total of $6,604.

“I was very pleased to see the wonderful contributions from the Mercyhurst community,” Frank said. “This round of crowdfunding was a bit different than usual because it was two scholarships rather than true ‘projects’ and of course, to honor two of our own.”

Frank was excited to see these to scholarships succeed through the crowdfunding efforts.“The Mercyhurst community came through because that’s what Mercyhurst people do,” Frank said.