The View From Higher Ground
Gardner-Webb Crosses $45 Million Goal in School's Largest EVer Capital Campaign
Written by Matt Walters
The Times Square Ball that dropped on 2013 signaled the official conclusion of Gardner-Webb University’s Higher Ground Campaign, whose $45 million goal made it the most ambitious capital campaign in Gardner-Webb’s 108-year history. Thanks to the immense generosity of the University’s friends and supporters, the campaign can now be listed as Gardner-Webb’s most successful.
Officially launched in July 2006, one year after the inauguration of Dr. Frank Bonner as president, the campaign to achieve higher ground in Christian higher education proceeded through a silent “leadership” phase during which an astounding $33 million was raised, matching the largest amount ever amassed by a single campaign at Gardner-Webb. Then after the campaign went public in 2010, new friends joined in with fervor and seasoned supporters redoubled their efforts to catapult the University to unprecedented heights. In total, $46,052,250 was contributed to the Higher Ground Campaign.
Looking back on the campaign and all it accomplished, Bonner emphasized friendships more than funding as the most significant aspect of the Higher Ground experience. “Even beyond the funding itself,” he said, “the campaign enabled us to establish and strengthen relationships with people who choose to support us because they understand and identify with the mission of Gardner-Webb. That’s been very gratifying - to see the way the University’s core values emanate from everything our donors say and do in support of Christian higher education. Words cannot express our vast appreciation for them.”
Bonner said it has also been a joy to watch the various campaign projects come to fruition. The campaign’s flagship project was the Tucker Student Center, the 110,000 square-foot student development facility that symbolizes the University’s enduring commitment to its students.
When it opened in the fall of 2012, the Tucker Student Center was hailed as the single most impressive and transformational building ever built at Gardner-Webb. Featuring glass walls and an architectural design to mirror the personality of the University community—open, relational, and unique—the Student Center bears the name of Robert and Carolyn Tucker, GWU trustees and owners of Shoe Show, Inc., whose $5 million naming gift constitutes the largest grant in Gardner-Webb’s history. The family of Frank Stewart, president and founder of Ultra Machine and Fabrication, Inc., and trustee to the University, also contributed an outstanding $2 million to name Stewart Hall, the Tucker Student Center’s “crown jewel” first-floor main hall.
En route to higher ground, Gardner-Webb also opened the long-anticipated Science Laboratory Center, more than doubling the laboratory, classroom and office space and greatly expanding the technological capacity of the University’s burgeoning natural science programs. New classroom facilities were built, like Frank Nanney Hall, home to the Department of Social Sciences and the Noel Program for Students with Disabilities.
“I think of a campaign not as a ‘start and stop’ initiative but as a focused effort during a period of time, an effort that will continue in earnest as we move forward from Higher Ground.”
The Campaign fueled construction of the new championship-class athletics facility John Henry Moss Baseball Stadium. The Dover Theatre is being renovated and expanded to include the new Loy Scene Shop, which is currently under construction. Plus, dozens of aesthetic and functional enhancements—including the new Bridges Gate at the Stadium Drive entrance, expanded parking, and new landscape design—have enriched the campus experience for students and visitors alike.
Other campaign achievements are less visible but certainly no less significant. Millions of dollars have been raised since 2006 to bolster student financial aid and endow dozens of new scholarships. Donors also gave in support of undergraduate research, faculty development, service-learning initiatives, international study opportunities, and to strengthen the University’s Christian foundation.
“The Higher Ground Campaign was significantly different from any previous campaign at Gardner-Webb, both in its scope and in its purpose,” said Scoot Dixon, senior vice president for University Relations. “I think the previous campaigns in our history were designed to help address critical basic needs for the school to succeed. This campaign, however, was launched during a time when, under Dr. Bonner’s leadership, we were already thriving. So the Higher Ground Campaign was about realizing a dream, a vision for how to make an already thriving institution even stronger. Thanks to our wonderful donors, we are making great strides.”
While pleased with the campaign’s outstanding success, University officials insist that the close of the campaign shouldn’t be considered an “ending,” but rather an opportunity to transition toward new and exciting projects to strengthen Gardner-Webb.
“I think of a campaign not as a ‘start and stop’ initiative but as a focused effort during a period of time, an effort that will continue in earnest as we move forward from Higher Ground,” added Monte Walker, vice president for University Advancement. “There is still more work to be done to propel the University forward.” Noel T. Manning, II, the University’s chief communications officer, added, “We’re always interested in finding new and better ways to serve our students.”
Looking ahead, Bonner says the top priorities include a continued effort to bolster faculty resources, a Fine Arts Center, a College of Health Sciences, and an enhanced Softball Complex. He also plans to explore several new undergraduate and graduate academic programs, a new residential hall built to house a learning community, new classroom space, and other aesthetic campus enhancements.
“I have never been more proud of Gardner-Webb, more hopeful for our students, more confident in our mission, and more grateful for those friends who have endorsed that mission through their prayers and generous support,” Bonner said. “The view forward from Higher Ground is exciting, indeed.”