Wabash College celebrated the conclusion of Giant Steps — the largest and most successful comprehensive campaign in its 191-year history — with a gala event Friday in Knowling Fieldhouse.
Since its open on July 1, 2017, to its conclusion on June 30, 2023, the Giant Steps Campaign raised more than $250,638,000 in gifts and pledges from 12,029 unique donors who made 82,272 gifts.
“This is a remarkable achievement in the long and storied history of Wabash College,” said President Scott E. Feller. “To exceed our audacious goal of $225 million for Giant Steps — through a presidential transition, the pandemic, and economic uncertainty that followed — speaks volumes about the generosity of our alumni and friends. Giant Steps has given us so much momentum as we look to our bicentennial in 2032.”
The Giant Steps Campaign was led by co-chairs Paul Woolls ’75 and Betty O’Shaughnessy Woolls and Steve ’68 and Joanie Bowen; presidential families Gregory and Lora Hess and Scott and Wendy Feller; and staffed by Dean for College Advancement Michelle Janssen and Campaign Director Joe Klen.
“When we undertook the process of raising twice the amount of the goal of the College’s last campaign during the early days of Giant Steps, Betty and I quietly hoped that we could at least get close to $225 million,” said Paul Woolls, a retired attorney who now owns Progeny Winery in Napa, California. “We need not have worried. Thanks to the generosity and resolve of the Wabash nation, the campaign exceeded the $225 million goal by a full 15%.”
The Woolls’ $40 million gift kick-started Giant Steps at the public launch in November 2018, at which time the College had secured $150 million in funding.
“It has been an honor to serve with such a dedicated group of volunteer leaders,” said Betty Woolls, a former real estate developer who founded O’Shaughnessy Estate Winery in Napa in 1996. “We have bonded as a group and are greatly pleased by the results of this historic effort.”
Focused on strengthening opportunities for Wabash students and faculty through investment in scholarships, endowed professorships and program funds, the College’s Annual Fund, and capital projects, Giant Steps delivered by raising more than $313,000 per student and nearly $18,000 per alumnus. Respectively, those figures rank seventh and 19th nationally among liberal arts colleges with campaigns in the same time frame.
“My colleagues in Advancement are astounded by the extraordinary results of the Giant Steps Campaign — clearly we punched way above our weight given our size,” said Dean Janssen. “I attribute our astounding success to a donor- and relationship-focused Campaign Executive Cabinet whose unstinting generosity and commitment has no comparable peer.”
During Giant Steps, Wabash established 123 new endowed funds, including six endowed professorships and faculty chairs; 36 academic department, internship, special program, and immersion experience funds; and 81 new scholarship funds.
Two new academic majors were established through Giant Steps — computer science and philosophy, politics, and economics (PPE) — and 10 new student initiatives or centers were funded, including the Center for Innovation, Business, and Entrepreneurship; Global Health Initiative; Greater Chicagoland Initiative; President’s Distinguished Speaker Series; Stephenson Institute for Classical Liberalism; Wabash Democracy and Public Discourse; Walsh Center for Political Economy; Wabash Liberal Arts Immersion Program, and the Wabash Women’s Collective.
“Receiving more than 82,000 gifts from 12,000 benefactors is a very clear vote of confidence in the important work our faculty, staff, and coaches do each day to educate, mentor, and guide our students,” Klen said. “I thank all who took part in Giant Steps and call on them and others to continue to strengthen all we do at Wabash with annual philanthropic generosity. This ongoing support will add to the momentum created by the campaign and position the College for even greater success in our third century.”
While capital projects were not the focus of Giant Steps, Wabash built stunning new student housing in the Ott Residential Life District and remodeled Martindale Hall; a new campus gateway was dedicated, along with the construction of the Shelbourne Wrestling Center and Little Giant Stadium, while the Allen Athletics and Recreation Center got major upgrades in its weight and fitness rooms and Chadwick Court.
“The Giant Steps campaign provided funding for scholarships, faculty and academic programs, immersive experiences, and our physical campus,” said Steve Bowen, a retired attorney and former chair of the Wabash Board of Trustees. “My wife Joanie and I were honored to help lead this historic effort and are astounded at the remarkable response from alumni and benefactors from far and wide.”