Northwestern announces $55 million campaign

Northwestern College publicly launched the Imagine Campaign, with the goal of raising $55 million, at a banquet for the college’s donors held Friday evening, Sept. 30.

More than $34 million in gifts and pledges have already been made to the campaign, which will fund a new learning commons, expanded academic programs and additional student scholarships. Also included in the campaign are monies for facility improvements, gifts to the Northwestern Fund and deferred giving—or gifts made through wills and bequests.

At $15 million, the largest component of the campaign is the learning commons, a 58,000-square-foot building that will house the college’s library, academic support center, writing center, multimedia center and institutional technology help desk.

“There’s an integration of function,” says Dr. Tim Schlak, Northwestern’s library director. “We’re bringing key departments that are integral to what happens in the classroom and placing them in one convenient, accessible location.”

The learning commons, Schlak says, will be geared toward the way students learn today, with more spaces that support collaboration and group projects. Located together, the various departments housed in the building will be better able to help students learn how to access information, evaluate that information, and synthesize it in their own writing and work.

President Greg Christy and members of the college’s advancement staff have just $3.5 million left to raise for the learning commons. A $2 million gift in April by Jack and Mary DeWitt of Holland, Mich., played a key role in fundraising efforts as other donors followed their lead.

“The end of the calendar year is always an important time for giving,” says Christy. “Having raised over $1 million in recent months, there’s great momentum to complete the funding and make this dream a reality. We have a sterling academic reputation, but this project, along with some curricular improvements we are developing, will transform how learning takes place at Northwestern. The new learning commons will impact every academic department on campus and launch us to an even greater level of excellence academically.”

Another campaign goal that will have a significant impact on Northwestern is $9 million for strategic initiatives, of which $4.3 million has already been raised. These initiatives include funding new academic programs; developing an online learning curriculum; strengthening co-curricular, experiential and intercultural programs; providing resources for academic support and advising; and establishing endowed professorships to support faculty recruitment and retention.

The Imagine Campaign will also increase funding for student scholarships by $8 million, with $5.8 million already committed to that cause. Almost $5 million has been pledged toward another $8 million goal: gifts through will bequests, beneficiary designations, irrevocable trusts and charitable gift annuities to grow the college’s endowment.

Gifts to improve Northwestern’s facilities—such as the recent renovation of the DeWitt Physical Fitness Center—have reached $2 million of a $5 million goal. And finally, the campaign also includes donations to the Northwestern Fund, which consists of unrestricted gifts toward the college’s operational budget. Of that $10 million goal, $7.5 million has been given thus far.

Jay Wielenga, Northwestern’s vice president for advancement, believes the variety of goals and projects will appeal to the many people who support the college financially.

“While the learning commons is the most pressing—or visible—part of this campaign, there are opportunities for individuals and organizations to give to Northwestern in a variety of areas,” he says. “People need to consider a gift where their passion lies, and this campaign allows them to do that.”

To learn more about the campaign, to track the progress in fundraising efforts or to make a gift, visit the Imagine Campaign website at