Fairfield Rising, the largest capital fundraising campaign in Fairfield University’s history, is on schedule to hit its target of $160 million, which will be used to fund both the construction of new facilities and renovations and improvements to several others as part of the school’s new master plan.
“We’re at about $137 million now,” said Wally Halas, vice president for university advancement, “which puts us in a good position to meet, or even exceed, our targeted ending date of June 30, 2017.”
That 2017 marks the university’s 75th anniversary is, he added, “a nice part of it.”
The campaign began in 2012 with a silent phase, when lead gifts, which typically can represent up to 20 percent of a campaign’s goal, are sought. “That’s when we did our homework and got what commitments we could to know whether we were on a good path,” Halas said.
The university in that first phase raised contributions of about $115 million from major donors. Among the donations, former university trustee William Egan and his wife Jacalyn donated $10 million, the funding cornerstone for a $31-million renovation project at the university’s nursing school, which has been renamed the Marion Peckham Egan School of Nursing and Health Studies in honor of Egan’s mother. Work on that project is expected to be completed next fall.
The university also plans to expand enrollment in its student nursing classes to 200 students, up from 100 to 125 students, to meet the continued rising demand for those workers.
In addition, a newly renovated Leslie C. Quick Jr. Recreation Complex — the “RecPlex”— was unveiled on Sept. 2. The three-story facility, which gained 13,000 square feet and now totals 85,360 square feet, includes a new lounge, improved fitness, weight and multipurpose rooms and spinning, cross-fit and other classes offered by locally based businesses. The RecPlex project cost $22 million.
The campus makeover also included Rafferty Stadium, which opened in 2015 at a cost of $13 million. Named after Larry Rafferty, a 1964 Fairfield University graduate who made the principal leadership gift for the athletics project, the 3,500-seat venue is home to the school’s men’s and women’s lacrosse teams and several of its intramural and club sports programs as well as to Fairfield Prep’s football, soccer and lacrosse programs and a growing concert schedule.
In October, university officials opened the new Alumni Diamond baseball field, built at a cost of about $850,000.
Next up, Halas said, are renovations to the Charles F. Dolan School of Business, a new residence hall expected to be completed in August 2018, and a long-awaited “re-do” of Alumni Hall. The latter, a 2,479-seat arena that opened in 1959, hosts the university’s annual baccalaureate mass and Fairfield Prep’s commencement ceremony, and until 2002 was home to the Fairfield Stags men’s and women’s basketball teams. Those squads now play their home games at Webster Bank Arena in Bridgeport.
Plans to update Alumni Hall date back to at least 2000, but Halas said the school is finally ready to move forward, though rebuilding probably won’t begin before 2021.
“We’ve had a wonderful relationship with Webster Bank Arena,” he said, “but we want to bring a lot of games back to campus for our basketball and volleyball teams and make it a multi-purpose facility that can host concerts as well as graduations and convocations.”
The approximately $60 million project will add about 1,000 seats to Alumni Hall.
Adding and expanding scholarships is also a part of the Fairfield Rising project.
“Fairfield is a very hot school right now because of our academics and enrollment continues to grow,” Halas said. “Part of Fairfield’s mission is to ensure that any student who’s qualified to get in can financially afford to do so.”
According to startclass.com, tuition and fees for undergraduates total $43,770; if adding in room and board and other expenses, that number rises to $59,840.
But not only is the university’s enrollment increasing annually – it plans to grow its undergraduate population from the present 3,750 to about 4,000 — but its reputation is also growing: this year U.S. News named it the second-best regional university in the North, trailing only Rhode Island’s Providence College, while USA Today placed it in the top 10 percent of schools in the country and Time’s Money Magazine ranked its science and engineering programs sixth in the country for STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education.
Coincidentally, Fairfield Rising is wrapping up as President Jeffrey von Arx prepares to exit (Lynn Babington will serve as interim president beginning Jan. 1); the school’s last capital campaign, “Our Promise: The Campaign for Fairfield University,” which raised $137.9 million, was completed around the time that he began his presidency in 2004.