"The colleges window of opportunity is the communitys door to the future," he said in an interview following the program.
Neel, college president Dr. Gerald Gibson, Clayton Homes CEO Kevin Clayton and several others addressed the audience to paint a picture of the importance of the $78 million goal, $45,669,719 of which has been raised during a "quiet period" of fund raising. "I commend everyone who has been involved," Neel said.
Gibson said the $78 million will be earmarked for four goals -- paying the colleges portion of the planned civic arts center, renovating Anderson Hall, growing the institutions endowment fund and strengthening the annual fund.
Neel said that the community will benefit as well. In the 21st century information age, Neel said, there is nothing more powerful than a community that has a college as an integral part of it. The large turnout at the dinner of more than 300 was evidence the community is turning out to support the school, adding that the impact of a strong Maryville College is powerful. Neel pointed to companies like Ruby Tuesday and Clayton Homes who come to the school to recruit professionals.
Maryville College Vice President of Advancement Mark Cate agreed with Neel. "If the college is thriving, thats good for the community," he said. "I think that this window of opportunity is a window of opportunity for our greater community."
Claytons enthusiasm was evident when he took the podium. "You have magic going on here," he said. "Thats what attracted me to getting involved with the civic arts center."
Clayton said it was magic to see the community and the college working together to make the civic arts center a reality. "We need a world class art center to showcase talent," he said.
Dorsey "Dan" Ellis, chairman of the board of Maryville College, spoke of the importance of increasing the colleges endowment fund. Colleges with weak endowment funds "are going to have a very tough time as demographics change," he said.
Ellis praised Gibson for his work in bringing the college closer to the community. He then spoke of the importance of the fund raising effort. "This campaign is critically important to the college. The first thing were going to do is a build a civic arts center. Second were going to renovate Anderson Hall. Its an icon of Maryville College. Were going to bring it up to the point where it has smart classrooms," he said. "Then were going to build our endowment. Theres no way a small liberal arts college can get by with tuition alone. Finally, were going to build our annual fund."
Gibson talked about how the Maryville College Board of Directors four years ago approved the Window of Opportunity Strategic Plan. "With four overarching goals, or windows, the very name of the plan suggests that we presently find ourselves in a unique period of Maryville College history," he said.
Gibson talked about the "tremendous momentum" currently experienced at the college: record-setting enrollments, a rigorous academic program, a highly qualified and committed faculty, improvement in student quality, a stable and solid financial position and improved facilities and grounds.
"But perhaps more important than our progress to date is how we can leverage that progress for our students and our institution for decades to come," the president said. "Now is the time for us to act boldly in living out the dreams that we together dreamed in our strategic plan. Now is the time to marshal the good efforts and support that have provided us this momentum and live to our full potential as a college."
Gibson told the crowd that he believed the college could become a national leader, known for its scholarship and values, church-relatedness and quality liberal arts education.
"Our present momentum has us poised to take advantage of this window of opportunity to broaden our reputation and enhance the educational experience for students," he said. "We have the unique opportunity to create a Maryville College that is an asset to our students, our region, our country and our world for decades to come."
Jason McNeal, vice president for development, said the college has been raising money and collecting pledges during a "quiet phase" of the campaign, which began two years ago.
McNeal explained the four initiatives that are part of the "Our
Window of Opportunity" campaign:
1. The construction of the Civic Arts Center (CAC), a $42-million partnership facility with the cities of Maryville and Alcoa;
2. The $6-million renovation of Anderson Hall, the Colleges 136-year-old educational facility and campus icon, which provides classroom and office space for the humanities and education divisions;
3. The addition of $20 million to the Colleges endowment, with the goal of reaching $50 million by the end of the campaign;
4. The strengthening of the Annual Fund, which provides key support for scholarships, library resources, department budgets, academic programs and athletics.
The College hopes to raise $10 million for the Annual Fund during
Clayton spoke about the CAC, which is the highest-dollar component of the campaign. He was recognized during the banquet for the volunteer leadership role he took in encouraging community support of the CAC.
"I have been involved now with this project and with this campaign for over two years," the Clayton Homes CEO said. "And I can tell you that I have never been involved with any other project that has as much promise for this College, our community and our region as the Civic Arts Center."
Pete Claussen, chairman of Gulf and Ohio Railroads, member of the MC Board of Directors and co-chair of the Colleges campaign steering committee, called the "Our Window of Opportunity" campaign "ambitious" for Maryville College, but said money raised during the quiet phase of fundraising had gone well and that he was confident that the College would reach its $78-million goal.
Neel, who also serves as a member of the Board and co-chair of the Colleges campaign steering committee, spoke to the crowd following the screening of a new campaign video. Neel, who directs the Corporate Governance Center at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, revealed that of the $78-million total, nearly $46 million (or 59 percent) had been already raised or pledged.
"Now we are seeking your leadership, we are seeking your action," Neel said. "Our hope is that tonight has encouraged you to recall the dreams that we dreamed together for this college some years ago. And ultimately, our hope is that you will be motivated to do something extraordinary for this college and our community through this campaign.
"This is truly our window of opportunity," he said.
Guiding the fundraising has been a campaign steering committee, members of which include of Nancy Cain, retired managing editor and executive vice president of Maryville-Alcoa Newspapers, Inc., and a member of the MC Board of Directors; Kevin Clayton, CEO of Clayton Homes; Sheridan H. "Dan" Greaser, 1960 alumnus, retired general manager of operations for Global Lighting Products-Eveready Battery Company and vice president of the Colleges Board of Directors; Fred Lawson, chairman and founder of Bank East and member of the MC Board of Directors; Ellie Morrow, former director of development at the College; Dick Ragsdale, chairman of the Metropolitan Nashville Hospital Authority and member of the MC Board of Directors; and Mary Kay Sullivan, professor of business management and holder of the Joe D. Eakes Chair of Business.
More information on the campaign, as well as regular campaign updates, can be found on the colleges web site, www.maryvillecollege.edu/ourwindow.