Loomis Announces Capital Campaign for $150 Million

Marking the largest fundraising operation ever to be undertaken in Connecticut independent school history, the Loomis-Chaffee School in Windsor, Connecticut recently announced the inception of a capital campaign. Loomis is conducting a four-year, $150 million drive called “Our Best Selves: The Campaign for Loomis-Chaffee.” Through the campaign, the school seeks to increase unrestricted funds, attract and retain faculty, expand financial aid, and enhance student life. In addition, the school plans to increase its existing endowment by adding $100 million. Loomis, chartered in 1874, has a comparatively short history and smaller endowment than many other independent schools in New England. Although its endowment has performed well, Loomis-Chaffee considers itself at somewhat of a competitive disadvantage to its older and wealthier peer schools, including Phillips Academy. Loomis Director of Development John Clark commented, “Certainly we want to increase our endowment per student by the end of the campaign, not because we want as much as X, Y or Z school, but because we want to continue to offer a program to our students that is every bit as rigorous and broad as those at ‘the best’ schools.” Director of Public Information Mary Forrester added, “This is a coming-of-age for the school.” In addition to strengthening its endowment through an increase in annual giving, Loomis has already prioritized specific areas to which funds will be distributed at the conclusion of the campaign in 2006. To improve its teaching resources, the school hopes to employ more faculty members and to develop enrichment programs for teachers. The campaign funds will also help expand the campus’s facilities, providing $38 million for more classroom space, a new performing arts center, and the renovation of the science building. To uphold its egalitarian history and mission of attracting a diverse student body, increasing financial aid resources exists as another objective. Currently, 28 percent of the Loomis student body receives financial aid. After the campaign, campaign officials hope that this fraction of the student body increases to 35 percent. Loomis hopes to encounter the same success its peer schools, including Phillips Academy, have enjoyed during capital campaigns. Instead of major corporate donors, alumni and other individuals are expected to constitute the majority of benefactors. Mr. Clark stated, “What we are seeing is that the affection for Loomis among our alumni remains strong and we continue to have good conversations with donors about the support of the campaign.” Major efforts have been made to provide publicity and public knowledge about the impetus behind the campaign through mailings, events, and the school website. “The money-raising itself is not big news, but the tangible benefits of the campaign are substantial,” said Mr. Forrester. To announce the campaign formally, Loomis hosted a large, day-long event on November 1 for over 400 alumni, parents, and friends. Many students became involved in the kick-off festivities, speaking to prospective donors about life on campus and performing in several dance and music numbers to emphasize the importance of funding the new arts facility. How Loomis-Chaffee students feel about the campaign now stands as uncertain. For Loomis-Chaffee senior, Adam Siegel, it’s the end result of the campaign that yields interest. “I think that most students are aware of what’s going on, but it seems like most of our excitement is focused on the new facilities that the school plans to build,” he said. “I don’t think that students sleep and breathe it like we do, but they are aware of [the campaign’s] importance,” noted Mr. Forrester. To date, $56,879,034 has been raised, in addition to the “quiet phase” of $60 million collected before the campaign was formally announced to the public. The largest contribution was $10 million from Mr. Henry Kravis, honorary co-chair of the campaign. The planning for Loomis’ campaign and the feasibility study that preceded it extends back to a more robust economic time, but there seems to be little worry that the current weakness of the U.S. economy will hinder the campaign’s progress. Before the capital drive began, the school’s endowment was strong, with an ending market value of $94,338,953. Such was not the case for many other schools, which saw significant decreases in their endowments over the last fiscal year. This past summer, PA reported a $140 million dollar decline in its endowment value since the figure’s peak at $550 million in the spring of 2000. “We are constantly analyzing our pool of donors and making updated forecasts, and at this point in time see no reason to back off our goal,” concluded Mr. Clark. In July, Phillips Academy concluded the largest fundraising campaign in independent school history, receiving $208.9 million in contributions from over 17,000 donors. Begun in 1996, Campaign Andover raised significant funds for the endowment, faculty salaries, facilities, financial aid scholarships, and technology. The building of the Shuman Admission Center and the Ted Harrison Hockey Rink, the expansion of the Cochran Chapel, the renovation of new faculty apartments, and the ongoing $28 million construction of the Gelb Science Center are just a few of the more obvious upgrades that the Academy now boasts. “The success of Campaign Andover has strengthened the educational program in all its aspects – academic, residential and athletic,” said Head of School Barbara Landis Chase in an online press statement, “The campaign has enabled us to maintain our leadership position in faculty salaries and financial aid scholarships and to make facilities improvements that will serve our students and teachers well into the future.” Prior to Campaign Andover, the honor of having conducted the largest fund-raising endeavor in independent school history belonged to Deerfield Academy, the Massachusetts school that completed its $156 million “Strength of Heart” campaign in June 2001.