Chapman campus photo

Extraordinary Donor Support Opens More Doors of Opportunity at Chapman University

In the early days of COVID-19 restrictions, Chapman University student Tina Tsyshevska wasn’t sure how she was going to make her rent. Tsyshevska’s full-time paid internship was whittled to a few hours a week. She couldn’t afford a flight home to Alaska. Her mother’s work hours were reduced, too.

But the Ukrainian immigrant knew one thing for certain. Rice is filling.

“I’ve had tough times before,” she says. “I got a big bag of rice, some bread and peanut butter that comes two jars in a pack. I was like, OK, let’s see where this takes me.”

Fortunately, assistance arrived from the CU Safely Back Fund, a resource which has met some of the most pressing needs of Chapman students and families whose finances have been upended by the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Without that additional aid I don’t know where I would be,” said Tsyshevska ’20, a December graduate.

That’s just one example of the impact that open-hearted giving has made at Chapman University, despite the months-long coronavirus crisis. Some $50 million in major endowments and gifts, along with a rise in first-time donors who supported a variety of calls for support, helped the university achieve one of its best giving years yet.

Remarkable Giving During Challenging Times

Such generosity represents a vote of confidence in Chapman’s vibrant future and a commitment to transformation through giving, says Sheryl Bourgeois, Ph.D., Chapman executive vice president and chief advancement officer.

“To see our community of donors come together during this time to help support our students and the university has been an inspiration and a reminder that together we can rise to any challenge,” Bourgeois says.

Major gifts included:

  • $12.9 Million: Ron and Sandi Simon for Sandi Simon Center for Dance, Simon Physician Assistant Scholarships and endowment of the Simon STEM Scholars at Orange High School
  • $10 Million: Anonymous gift for expansion of Hilbert Museum of California Art
  • $5.5 Million: Anonymous bequest to endow teaching fellowships in Attallah College of Educational Studies
  • $5 Million: Swenson Family Foundation for Swenson Family Hall of Engineering
  • $4 Million: Doy B. Henley for Doy B. Henley Endowed Chair in American Presidential Studies to be held by inaugural chairholder Dr. Lori Cox Han, a presidential studies scholar and author. Also funds Doy B. Henley Endowed Director in STEM-MBA Studies
  • $2.4 Million: Clifford R. Stark Residual Trust gift to establish the annual need-based Stark Scholarship
  • $2 Million: James H. and Esther M. Cavanaugh for James H. Cavanaugh Endowed Chair in Presidential Studies, to be held by Dr. Luke Nichter, an author and scholar of American history 
  • $1.5 Million: Anonymous bequest to establish endowments for experiential learning and merit scholarships for students in Argyros School of Business and Economics, plus an endowment for Leatherby Libraries
  • $1 Million: Potamkin Family for CU Safely Back Fund to help address urgent needs
  • $1 Million: Lorrilyn Fetherolf Trust to establish Fetherolf Broadcast Journalism Endowment at Dodge College of Film and Media Arts

Meeting Emergent Student Needs

More than 400 students received urgently needed support through the fund, allowing them to offset hardships created by the pandemic and continue working toward graduation day. Even as the campus closed, student workers who depend on their jobs to help cover tuition continued to be paid.

Simultaneously, fundraising to support programs, schools and colleges flourished. From the first days of the pandemic until early this year, the university has raised more than $50 million, despite logistical challenges imposed by lockdowns and quarantine.

Professor Gartner teaching with a remote video screen.
Major endowments and gifts to Chapman totaling more than $50 million support technological upgrades for remote instruction as well as assistance to meet student and family needs.

Even the spirit of the scholarship fundraiser Chapman Celebrates sparked to life. The university canceled the Broadway-style revue and gala dinner that are hallmarks of the annual November event, but nonetheless a Chapman Celebrates outreach effort raised more than $1.5 million from 80 dedicated supporters.

Since the pandemic began, Chapman has seen an increase in first-time gifts to the university. Behind all the donations, whatever their size, is a shared commitment to Chapman that is beyond measure, Bourgeois said.

“We are grateful for all our generous donors, campus community, alumni, families and friends who’ve made such a difference in the lives of so many,” she said. 

For Tsyshevska and hundreds of her fellow students, the generosity will not be soon forgotten.

“The Chapman experience they tell you about?” Tsyshevska said. “I am the living outcome of that personalized experience.”

Learn More

To learn more about ways the university is supporting students and providing resources they need for a meaningful educational experience, visit the CU Safely Back Fund page.

Dawn Bonker

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