“The Caldbeck Challenge”
It’s a quiet summer morning on the Drake University campus, and Diane Caldbeck is standing in Maddie Levitt Lane, telling stories about alumni whose contributions have helped transform the University over the years. “The power of women in philanthropy has truly been felt here at Drake,” she says, pausing the tour to talk about one of her major mentors.
(Maddie Levitt was the first woman to lead a capital campaign that raised more than $100 million for a university, and she did so not once, but twice. The lane is so named because, after two hip surgeries, Levitt used to drive her yellow VW bug right up onto the sidewalk and park next to Old Main when she would volunteer.)
As Associate Vice President for Alumni and Development, Caldbeck draws on these kinds of tales to bring life to corners of campus that others might pass without a second thought. She deeply appreciates the contributions of those who’ve gone before —from George Carpenter’s vision for the University in the 1880s, to the current donors making the distinctlyDrake campaign a success.
Little does she know that a secret project is in the works to put her name among the Drake benefactors whose legacies make up the history and community of Drake.
Developing affection for Drake
“What we want people to do is develop that affection for the University that comes from knowing a little bit of its history,” says Caldbeck, who describes her 23-year career with Drake as the ‘perfect vehicle’ for her talents.
It’s a job that allows her to listen to Drake alumni share how their college experiences shaped the course of their lives. She steers their desire to give back toward opportunities to make an impact on future generations of students, connecting personal passions with the priorities that will help Drake be – and be recognized – as one of the very best institutions of higher education in the nation.
Giving — whether it be money or time — is a subject Caldbeck and her husband always stressed to their three children as they grew up. Each chose to attend and graduate from Drake.
“Whenever my kids have given to philanthropy, my husband and I have matched it,” she says. “That’s a tradition we’ve carried on with our grandchildren.”
The surprise of a lifetime
Caldbeck wasn’t entirely sure how deeply this lesson stuck in the minds of her daughters, Kelly and Megan, and son, Peter until a week after that tour down Maddie Levitt Lane. In front of a room full of her colleagues, the Caldbeck children repaid her with the surprise of a lifetime — a $25,000 pledge by her children to create the Diane K. Caldbeck Student Philanthropy Challenge.
The “Caldbeck Challenge” will give each senior class the ability to increase their collective class gift and the legacy they leave to the University by matching the amount raised dollar for dollar. The Diane K. Caldbeck Student Philanthropy Challenge will be used to inspire future students to develop a culture of philanthropy.
The surprise gift announcement at the Des Moines Botanical Center creates one of those memorable moments in a campaign.
“When we talk about the Drake family, we talk about individuals who come together to celebrate something special, to show how individuals who care deeply about a place can create change for generations,” says John Smith, Vice President for Alumni and Development.
An irresistible opportunity
For Caldbeck’s children, the opportunity to give back to their mom and alma mater at the same time was irresistible, so they worked with Major Gift Officer Stacy Rungaitis to make it possible on the salary of three young professionals.
“I always thought I’d give when I got that winning lottery check, but Stacy at the office put together a great plan, so the way that it’s laid out makes a big contribution doable,” says Peter, whose three small children represent a new generation of Caldbeck philanthropists.
“I knew it was going to be significant, but when you break it down, it’s less than a car payment, so I didn’t think twice about it,” says Megan, who works as an advertising professional in Denver.
She and her siblings presented the gift in person, with a bouquet of flowers and a big box of tissues, after months of careful planning. The idea to match senior gifts seemed like the perfect meaningful project to blend all of their goals.
“I understand now that it’s not just the amount that you give, but it’s also measured by the number of people who give,” says Kelly Calbeck, Diane’s oldest daughter, who went on to become a pharmacist in Chicago.
Growing into successful, generous professionals
The Caldbeck children all remembered their mom volunteering them to help out at Drake phoneathons, and the close relationship they’ve developed with their mom’s colleagues made the idea of giving even more comfortable.
“I’ve known the family for almost two decades and since these kids were little, I’ve watched them grow up and become the professionals that they are,” Rungaitis says. “If these three kids can do this, hopefully it will inspire other people of all age levels to really grasp that a campaign gift is possible. You don’t have to be a millionaire. You can make it work for your budget and be a part of this campaign that’s so important for Drake.”
For Caldbeck, who is the kind of woman to literally carry quotations about philanthropy in her pockets, the coming together of her family and colleagues for such a meaningful cause is an emotional, deeply gratifying experience.
“It’s a dream come true,” she says. “That’s the bottom line.”