Celebrating the Impact of the Keep the Promise Campaign

Dear Campus Community,

We did it!

Ursinus College proudly surpassed the $100 million goal for our Keep the Promise comprehensive campaign—a truly historic achievement that coincided with a remarkable sesquicentennial anniversary milestone. While the 2019-20 academic year was not without hardship—indeed, the global pandemic had a profound impact on the college—we persevered. And we did it TOGETHER.

The enduring devotion of our Bears was a recurring theme of this campaign, which we formally concluded on June 30, after eight years and $107 million raised. More than 14,300 donors came together to support the college during the campaign, with nearly 7,700 making a gift for the very first time. The power of that collective effort can be felt across campus—in our Innovation and Discovery Center and the Schellhase Commons; through our new student programs, which foster experiential learning; in the form of 65 new named scholarships; and through increased funding for the enrichment of our faculty. All of this—and much, much more—was built by the hands of the many who came together to donate to Keep the Promise.

Scroll down this page to celebrate with us and learn more about the impact of Keep the Promise. We thank you again for your dedication to this great college. YOU have been integral to our success, and we’re looking forward to building on it now and in the future. We are all “Bears for Life.”

Brock Blomberg, President

Jill Leauber Marsteller ’78, P’18, Senior Vice President for Advancement

Investing in Our People

James Barret ’64 and Amy Barrett

James Barrett ’64 (third from left) and wife, Amy Barrett (third from right) pose with students (from left to right) McKayla Lefkove ’22, Rahsaan Sailes ’22, Evan Yanagawa ’22 and Gwendylan Gagne ’22 at the annual Scholarship Celebration on Founders Day, February 5, 2020.

Alumnus James P. Barrett ’64 knows first-hand the power of a liberal arts education, even for those looking to pursue a career in the sciences. Barrett, a retired physician who specialized in interventional pain management, reaped the benefits of the college’s interdisciplinary approach as a student himself more than 55 years ago.

“As a first year, I was exposed to discriminative thinking and details of mitochondrial function under the tutelage of Dr. Levie van Dam,” says Barrett. “A second chapter comprised of lessons in written communication that became the underpinning for scientific documentation. A basic understanding of economics and a business model was a third transformative element: all lessons introduced at Ursinus.”

Rather than develop a narrow view of academics, Barrett thrived through the broad foundation of knowledge that he developed at Ursinus—today still a central tenet of the college’s educational ethos. Wanting to give back for today’s students, Barrett and his wife, Amy, established the James P. and Irmgard H. Barrett Scholarship in Neuroscience in 2014.

It is my wish that scholarship recipients will be inspired to use their intellectual gifts to contribute both to the fund of knowledge around neuroscience and to the benefit of humanity,” says Barrett.

The Barretts have made a point of meeting their scholarship recipients, and have formed special relationships with a few of them, including Gwendylan Gagne ’22, a neuroscience major from Reading, Pa. Through the close bond they share, the Barretts have been able to offer support and mentorship as Gagne navigates her own undergraduate journey. Their view of Ursinus College has now come full circle.

Gwendylan Gagne ’22

For Gwendylan Gagne ’22, the Ursinus College experience has been defined by the personal connections she has made—with her peers, her professors and her benefactors.

“The most exciting aspect of my time at Ursinus so far has been being able to interact with and learn from all our knowledgeable and amazing faculty,” says Gagne, a junior neuroscience major and Japanese minor. “Being able to study under people who are so successful and innovative has really inspired me throughout my time at Ursinus.”

Gagne has relished that one-on-one engagement, and knows it is an aspect of an Ursinus education that she may not have been exposed to elsewhere.

She says, “Ursinus is unique in that the faculty is invested in both your future as well as your current success and well-being, creating a supportive environment that many other schools lack.”

As a recipient of the James P. and Irmgard H. Barrett Scholarship in Neuroscience, Gagne has also forged a relationship with her donors, Jim ’64 and Amy Barrett. Since first meeting at a college event last winter, they’ve remained in contact and the Barretts have offered not only friendship, but also mentorship to Gagne.

I look up to them for guidance and as role models as I progress throughout my time in college and explore career options,” she says.

Gagne is interested in a career in science research, and so she plans to pursue a master’s and possibly a doctorate after her time at the college. She is inspired to make an impact in the scientific community and Ursinus is preparing her well for that promising future.

Investing in our Places

Heather Lobban-Viravong

Service opportunities, internships, community outreach, volunteerism and economic development are just a few ways that Ursinus plays a vital role as a member of a larger community. In 2019-20, the college continued to open its doors to families in Collegeville and throughout Montgomery County, solidifying itself as a destination campus in the region.

One of the Ursinus leaders charged with invigorating community spirit is Heather Lobban-Viravong, vice president for college and community engagement.

“As a member of a larger community, Ursinus has a responsibility to support and help in whatever ways it can, but we should never imagine that the relationship is one-sided,” she says.

We gain just as much as we give. Not only do we gain in knowledge, but we also gain thought partners and an extra layer of support should we face a challenging situation.”

The relationship between a college and its surrounding region, she says, is important because they each have resources from which an entire community can benefit—not only now but in the future.

“Over the past two years, Ursinus has grown to become more of a positive force in the community because we’ve put renewed energy and commitment into re-establishing meaningful partnerships with borough leaders, the Collegeville Economic Development Corporation, the Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, health and safety professionals and the surrounding school districts,” says Lobban-Viravong, who sits on the college’s community relations committee and also oversees the student affairs division, as well as inclusion initiatives like the Institute for Inclusion and Equity and the Diversity Action Resource Team.

She says that in the coming years, the relationship between Ursinus and the community will continue to thrive. “There is a core group of folks on campus who are dedicated to making community connections and finding more avenues for collaboration whenever possible to do so.”

Pat Curry ’01

If a college’s alumni base is the foundation for philanthropy and mentorship, then Ursinus is standing on solid ground. For proof, look no further than Pat Curry ’01, perhaps the proudest of all Bears; an alumnus who puts current students first.

I am who I am today because of my UC experience,” says Curry, a volunteer wrestling coach who is vice president of a family-owned flooring business.

“Ursinus has been like an extended family over the past 20-plus years. As far as my time as a wrestler at Ursinus, the sport and this college have taught me how to grow as a person, how to become stronger mentally and physically, and how to help others be successful both on and off the mat.”

He says the people at the college and in the wrestling community have a “shirt off their back” mentality, one that he’s adopted as he’s hired students at his business (it’s important, he says, “for them to learn about hard work and labor”) and remained active in the alumni community.

“I feel with the passing of Coach (Bill Racich), I have a responsibility to keep the legacy of the Ursinus wrestling program while helping the program move forward,” he says.

Racich, whom Curry had known since age 4, passed away in 2018. Last fall, the William Racich Room for Wrestling Excellence in Helfferich Gym was named in his honor.

“Coach Racich was my mentor, my coach, my big brother and my best friend. We traveled all over the world … In 2013, we were the coaches of the U.S. international team that had the opportunity to travel to Bulgaria and compete against some of the best in the world.”

Curry doesn’t consider himself a mentor, but he cherishes the opportunity to inspire. “I am just looking to help the student-athletes be the best they can be both on and off the mat, in society [and] to each other. I want them to be successful at everything they do not just as a wrestler, but in life,” he says.

“The look of pride in their eyes is everything you could ask for as a coach, mentor and friend.”

Investing in our Programs

Sharon Hansen

Working to prepare more than 1,500 students for success beyond Ursinus is no small task. Sharon Hansen not only leads her staff in career and post-graduate development (CPD) to do exactly that, but this year she was also such an impactful force beyond our campus borders that the Perkiomen Valley Chamber of Commerce, an organization for which she serves on the board of directors, recognized her as its “Business Star of the Year.”

As a member of the community relations committee, Hansen strives to build connections between the college and local businesses. “These mutually beneficial relationships have helped businesses grow and provided Ursinus students and graduates with internships and jobs,” Hansen says.

She also relies on the college’s dedicated alumni network to create opportunities for students. “Alumni are key partners in helping students envision and realize meaningful lives and be successful in their future endeavors,” she says.

In addition to returning to campus as speakers, serving on our employer advisory board and participating in career panels and the annual Job, Internship and Networking Fair, alumni also sponsor externships, which are short job-shadow experiences.

When the pandemic hit, Hansen and her team needed to pivot—quickly. “Our first task was to make sure that we were still accessible to students,” says Hansen. The result was a list of virtual opportunities such as resume workshops and career coaching meetings with alumni. CPD also launched a weekly newsletter that included tips on how to find remote opportunities and what to do in the event of a canceled internship.

What’s more, every member of the Class of 2020 who has not reported themselves as employed or in graduate/professional school, will receive a personal phone call from CPD to help determine their next steps, Hansen says.

CPD, in collaboration with the advancement office, also launched Ursinus Unites, a program aimed at recruiting the help of the Ursinus community to support the Class of 2020. It’s a level of commitment to our students that will not surprise anyone who is familiar with the dedication of the CPD staff.

“It is amazing what can be accomplished when people work together,” she says.

Scott Deacle and Johnny Myers ’19

Scott Deacle, associate professor of business and economics, adviser of UCIMCO.

An investment club with humble origins in the early 2000s has transformed into the Ursinus College Investment Management Company (UCIMCO), a one-credit course in which student analysts manage endowment-style and stock selection funds now worth more than $100,000. Adviser Scott Deacle, associate professor of business and economics, and cofounder Johnny Myers ’19 credit alumni and parents alike with helping the fund become successful, including an initial $5,000 contribution from the late Rev. Dr. Harold C. Smith ’55.

Myers’ parents, Dan and Janet Myers, have also contributed multiple gifts to help grow the fund. “Their most recent gift, along with a contribution from Entrepreneur-in-Residence Maureen Cumpstone ’79, will fund a women’s investment fund,” says Deacle.

So, what else happens with those contributions? “We invest that money and generate returns … and then we give part of our earnings to the Annual Fund, use a portion of the earnings to support UCIMCO activities (such as buying data and going on field trips) and reinvest another portion,” says Deacle.

“Johnny and I both have a philanthropic bent,” says Deacle. “We want the fund to set an example to Ursinus students and the Ursinus community.” In 2018, the fund made its first contribution to the college on #Giving2UCday. In 2019, in honor of the college’s sesquicentennial and its founding in 1869, the fund contributed $1,869.

“We want the resources from this fund to help Ursinus meet its fundraising goals, support student success and advance the capabilities of the college,” says Myers.

“The fund is the best use of our resources and is the best way to directly invest in the future of Ursinus's business and economics students.”

Annual Giving Spotlight