While we all know that Wake Forest is an incredibly unique and special place, it is always amazing to hear new stories about the various ways in which people are positively impacted by their experiences with the University and our athletic programs. Whether it’s an alumnus, a parent, a donor or a fan, it seems that almost everyone I encounter has a story to tell, and a slew of Wake Forest memories worth sharing.
As our development team travels across the country having conversations with a wide array of individuals, it becomes increasingly clear just how much Wake Forest means to so many. Due to that, it’s not uncommon for people to ask how they can help, or what else they can do to show their support and give back in a meaningful way.
Since the Wake Will campaign first began in 2010, we have experienced the largest facility buildout in the history of our Athletic Department. With all 16 varsity sports benefitting in some capacity from the addition of new and upgraded facilities, there has also been significant progress in the area of sports performance, including the hiring of Kate Ruley, who serves as the Director of Sports Nutrition. While these are just a couple examples, the generosity and involvement of our loyal donors has helped make so much possible.
Over the past few years, our athletic endowment is another area that has been impacted, as an increasing number of donors have expressed an interest in providing this type of support. With a long-term goal of fully endowing the Athletic Department by 2040—requiring a total investment of $640 million—it is encouraging to see people actively seeking out ways to learn more.
As we charge ahead, we want to bring awareness to the various options available in regard to endowment. Whether it’s establishing a scholarship, enhancing a program’s budget or including Wake Forest in your estate plans, there are many ways to leave a legacy and impact the lives of student-athletes for generations to come.
In an effort keep our donors informed, we have focused on one-on-one and small-group conversations. In addition, we are able to showcase the impact made at events like our annual Stewardship Brunch. This is one of my favorite events each year, as it is so inspiring to hear current and former student-athletes share how their scholarships changed their lives. This year’s event featured a Today, Tomorrow, Forever theme, speaking directly to the impact made through scholarship support at different stages.
The 2018 Stewardship Brunch featured three special guests —Hannah Betfort (’21), Dr. Louis Frazier (’07, MD ’12) and Bob McCreary (’61)—who each shared what their Wake Forest experience has meant to them.
Hannah Betfort, a freshman member of the women’s soccer team, represented the Today portion of the program. As one of five children in a single-mother household, she explained that her family wouldn’t have been able to afford to send her to college. “I would like to thank everyone in this room because, in one way or another, you have impacted me and everyone around me at this institution,” Hannah shared.
Speaking to Tomorrow was Dr. Louis Frazier, who is an emergency physician and former member of the Wake Forest football team. Growing up, he faced a lot of adversity and Wake Forest played a major role in his life. “Maybe, somehow, I could’ve worked my way up through a junior college scholarship and went to a great school like this, but my family couldn’t afford it,” he expressed.
Constantly striving for more, he was able to overcome many challenges and has achieved so much. In reflecting on his journey, he expressed his gratitude to all of our donors, sharing, “I just want to let you know that all your support has paid off.”
Bob McCreary—the Athletic Department’s largest donor with over $30 million in lifetime giving and former Wake Forest football player—served as the Forever speaker. Bob had a very modest upbringing, and similar to Hannah and Louis, would not have been able to attend college without a scholarship. “My scholarship enabled me to come to Wake Forest, and Wake Forest became the platform for the rest of my life,” he affirmed.
Bob has done an incredible amount to support Wake Forest Athletics and our student-athletes, but he has also been a great advocate for encouraging others to give back. “Find a way to do it as soon as you can so you can enjoy the benefits of the gift,” he stated. Speaking to all the fellow donors, Bob shared, “Sometimes we have to challenge ourselves to perhaps do just a little bit more because you’re making a tremendous investment in these young lives.”
When you hear individuals like Hannah, Louis and Bob share their stories, it really puts into perspective how much their lives have been affected through the support of our donors. As we strive to reach our $640 million goal and provide similar opportunities for future student-athletes, I encourage you to consider the various options that are available. Whether you want to make an impact now—with a five-year commitment of $100,000 to establish your own scholarship—or in the future by including Wake Forest Athletics in your estate plans, I can assure you that you’ll be helping to transform the lives of our deserving student-athletes.
(Please note: This article was originally published in the March 2018 issue of Gold Rush.)