Will Morris ’25 picks out a Wabash shirt during Day of Giving 2023. | Courtesy of Communications and Marketing

The Giant Steps campaign has lived up to its name. After surpassing the $225,000,000 goal, it’s time to thank those that made it possible.

Beginning on July 1, 2017 with a “quiet phase” that resulted in $150,000,000 already being raised, the campaign capitalized on the momentum by ending the philanthropic effort with over $240,000,000.

Wabash Advancement and donors alike see this seven-year campaign as a defining moment for the College going into the 2032 bicentennial.

“What do we want Wabash to look like when we enter our third century?” said Giant Steps Campaign Director Joe Klen ’97. “What types of things might Wabash need to have in place? What kind of programs? What kind of endowment? What kind of student body will we have?”

Questions like this have been the driving force in years past during previous capital campaigns. 

Recently, the most influential campaign before “Giant Steps” was the “Campaign for Leadership” from 1998–2004. This capital campaign laid the groundwork for the campus that the Wabash community knows today. 

“That’s when Hays Science Hall was built, when the Allen Center was done, when we either renovated or rebuilt all the fraternities [and when] the new Malcolm X Institute was built,” said Klen.

Wabash cherishes a long and storied history of successful capital campaigns dating back to the “300” campaign from 1924. The “300” was a call to action for alumni and friends to donate $60 per year for five years. The goal was one of the first organized attempts to raise money in an effort to improve the student experience at Wabash. Since the “300” campaign, Wabash has seen a multitude of capital campaigns, almost all of which have been successful. The continued success of these capital campaigns speaks to the appreciation that Wabash alumni have for their alma mater.

A graphic for the 1924 “300” campaign. | Courtesy of Ramsay Archives

“We talk a lot in our work about what kind of impact people want to have with their philanthropy to the College or what kind of legacy they want to leave at the College,” said Klen. “What kind of legacy are they leaving at a place that will continue to benefit young men who are enrolled here for generations to come?”

Now that Wabash is at the conclusion of the campaign, students are able to understand the tangible effects that the philanthropic efforts of friends and family have had on their Wabash experience.

“50% of our budget comes from philanthropy, either from gifts that are made on Day of Giving to our annual fund or the unrestricted fund or from the endowment,” said Dean for College Advancement Michelle Janssen.

The Giant Steps campaign has led to the development of the Philosophy, Politics and Economics  and Computer Science majors, has supported programs like the Center for Innovation, Business, and Entrepreneurship, Wabash Democracy and Discourse and the Global Health Initiative, created over 100 new scholarships for students, helped to create Little Giant Stadium and the Stephenson Institute for Classical Liberalism and will be used for over $10,000,000 towards immersion learning opportunities for students.

Although students haven’t been the ones to make significant financial contributions, they’ve played an instrumental role in showcasing the continued excellence of Wabash. Between members of the Sons of Wabash who have hosted and volunteered during on-campus events, students who have traveled to meet with alumni for regional events and even students who have written thank you notes to those who have funded scholarships and experiences, every effort has been valuable.

Although writing letters to those who have donated doesn’t seem to be a powerful task, recognizing the impact of a scholarship is an emotional moment. For one family in particular, it is an incredibly moving tradition.

A graphic soliciting Alumni donations for the 1998-2004 “Campaign for Leadership” fundraiser. | Courtesy of Ramsay Archives

“​​Every year, for years, a student who has received this family’s scholarship has written a letter to the family, and before the mother, who initiated the scholarship, died, she passed down a wooden box to her daughter where she had put all of those scholarship letters,” said Janssen. “She said, ‘Now it’s your turn to receive this gift.’ So our students are thanking them, but they perceive it as ‘what a gift they get from us to get this thank you.’

On Friday October 6, 2023, Wabash College will welcome all who made these accomplishments possible with “A Giant Moment of celebration for the Giant Steps Campaign.” Alumni, friends and students will come together to recognize these accomplishments and will hear from students what impact these gifts have had on their Wabash experience.

On Saturday, the advancement team will host giveaway opportunities and interact with students and alumni on the Stephenson Gateway Plaza before the football game. Students are welcome to take part in this historic celebration that has blazed a trail for the future of Wabash College.

“The message for students to think about is the generational model,” said Klen. “Something where in 20 or 30 years down the road they’ll think about the folks who helped them. Maybe they will be inspired to make a difference for future Wabash students.”