Students, alumni, and administrators gathered in Lerner Hall on Monday evening to launch the Senior Fund amid an arrangement of cupcakes and cookies in Columbia blue and white.
The kick-off continued Columbia College Dean James Valentini’s “3, 2, 1” fundraising challenge in which seniors pledge to donate $20.13—their class year—during each of the three years after they graduate and encourage two friends to donate. One alumnus then matches the donation.
“In the Deantini world, there are only three stages of life: future students, current students, former students, and people who are related to them,” Valentini said to around 150 seniors mingling with flutes of wine and glasses of champagne. “Making financial contributions is part of it, but not all of it.”
At the end of the night, the group raised $7,430. Valentini pledged to match $5,440 in a contribution that will go toward Columbia College. Last year, Valentini matched $4,068 in contributions.
Two alumni, Gene Davis, CC ’75, and Charles Santoro, CC ’82, have also agreed to match donations to the Senior Fund.
According to Valentini, the executive committee of the Senior Fund decided to keep the “3, 2, 1” tactic because it was an effective way to appeal to seniors immediately before they graduate.
“If they don’t get involved immediately, they’re less likely to get involved at all,” Valentini said. “Three years seemed like a good period to ask for a commitment.”
Maria Sulimirski, CC ’13 and the executive chair of the Senior Fund, said that the kick-off expresses to seniors and alumni that “We are part of a culture where everyone understands the importance of perpetuating what this place meant to us.”
“Drinks have a tendency to get people out,” she added. “And I think seniors like the exclusivity.”
Nirmal Ilyas, CC ’13, said that even though she is “kind of nervous” to leave, she also looks forward to reaching the “point where you can give your own hard-earned money to Columbia.”
“I plan on donating once I graduate and start on my career,” Ilyas said. “I’m the kind who wants to be involved, I want to be an alumnus. I love Columbia, so I’m going to stick around for a while.”
The Senior Fund also allows students to pick a specific program for their contribution, including financial aid, the Core Curriculum, the Student Internship Fund, and Student Affairs.
Fiona Georgakis, CC ’13, noted that she personally benefitted from direct funding and extracurricular support. Georgakis said she thought it was important to contribute something that will benefit a future student “the way someone 20 years ago definitely did for us.”
“I think the size of the donation will increase after being in the workplace,” Georgakis said. “Donating $20.13 now is definitely manageable.”
Kristina Lee, CC ’13, wasn’t sure if she would donate, but said that she appreciated the event despite financial concerns.
“I don’t have a lot of money right now,” Lee said. “I know a lot of people are uncertain about what they’re going to do, so that’s an issue. I’d be more likely to donate if I had a job.”
Justin Hines, CC ’13, said that donating “isn’t all that important, but it’s a respectable thing to do. I like the idea of coming back and seeing what the class gave.”
Hines said that he recently felt “a little bit nostalgic” after beginning work at a part-time job.
“As I was leaving, I thought, ‘This is what my day is going to be like,’” he said. “I won’t be in a society full of intelligent peers.”
Valentini said that the division between life at Columbia and post-grad life is something that the Senior Fund is designed to address by getting students involved in the school.
“It’s a way of us being able to connect with you and you with us,” Valentini said. “You’ll say, ‘I’m physically leaving Morningside, but I’m not leaving college.’ We want to diminish the sense that Class Day is a transition to something entirely different.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misspelled Justin Hines' last name. Spectator regrets the error.