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When the Thomas Aquinas College Alumni Giving Weekend began in earnest on March 5, organizers were hoping to meet an ambitious goal of $100,000. “Last year we had 287 alumni make gifts for a total of $62,000,” says Robert Bagdazian, the College’s director of alumni and parent relations. “So $100,000 seemed like a big leap.”

Yet the alumni of Thomas Aquinas College dramatically eclipsed that total, contributing 684 gifts for $141,226. “The response was staggering,” says Mr. Bagdazian. “The alumni showed their love for the College in dramatic fashion.”

The reasons for the outpouring of generosity are many: a new Alumni Giving Weekend website, a raffle for a seven-day luxury cruise for two — won by Cyndi (DeLuca ’88) and Anthony Montanaro (’82) — and student volunteers who telephoned alumni throughout the weekend to encourage their participation. Yet the biggest factor, by far, was a herculean effort on the part of the alumni themselves.

“In past years, the seed money for Alumni Giving days has come from non-alumni members of the Board of Governors,” says Paul J. O’Reilly (’84), the College’s vice president for advancement. “This year, for the first time, it was alumni who made all the matching gifts, which inspired even greater giving.”

To get the Weekend started, Nona (Haggard ’00) and Matthew Kelsey (’94) offered to match the first $10,000 in gifts, dollar for dollar. Two anonymous alumni couples quickly followed suit, and on Saturday afternoon — after the initial $100,000 goal had already been attained, Angela (Andersen ’87) and Jack Connelly offered the fourth $10,000 matching gift of the weekend, perpetuating the momentum.

Meanwhile, many graduates took it upon themselves to petition classmates to make gifts, hoping to claim first prize in the annual competition to see which class can achieve the highest giving percentage. The Class of 1979 took an early lead, and the Class of 2020 was in contention all weekend long, but ultimately victory belonged to the Class of 2013, whose members were relentless in their support of their  alma mater.

“What the Class of 2013 achieved was incredible,” says Director of the Annual Fund Matthew Plaisted (’18). “They have set a very high bar for the rest of us — but we will be up for the challenge!”

Among the highlights of the 2021 Alumni Giving Weekend was a virtual-tribute forum, where alumni could make gifts in memory or in honor of chaplains, tutors, classmates, or anything they liked. “A lot of great memories were stirred up in those tributes and the photos that accompanied them,” says Dr. O’Reilly. There were some 167 tributes in all, ranging from the poignant — recalling some of the College’s late founders and tutors, priests, and fellow alumni who died far too soon — and the lighthearted. (The Burger Bar; Rusty, the campus dog; and washing machines all got honorable mentions.)

Among some of the highlights:

  • Rev. Cornelius M. Buckley, S.J.
  • Rev. Gerard Steckler
  • Norman DeSilva ('75)
  • Viltis Jatulis, “matchmaker extraordinaire”
  • Rosie Grimm (’10)
  • Andrew Kent Moore (’14)
  • Marcus R. Berquist
  • … and, fittingly, “High-Octane Education”

“The tributes were a wonderful touch,” notes Mr. Plaisted. “I kept coming back to the site to see who, or what, my fellow alumni wanted to remember. There are so many people who have sacrificed so much to make this education possible — it was great to see so many of them being honored, and to pay our generosity forward to the next generation of TAC students.”