How recent progress is having an impact on students

I have been pleased and honored to join together with the Drake alumni team as they traveled the U.S. for regional distinctlyDrake events. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting with my fellow alumni where they live and work, and visiting with people who love the University as much as I do.

It was especially exciting to be able to visit with alumni from Drake’s School of Education and spread the word about the school’s building project — an undertaking that is being made possible through distinctlyDrake. My family and I have been delighted to pledge our support and enthusiasm for this project, as well as for distinctlyDrake as a whole.

It’s important to remember, however, that distinctlyDrake is not really about buildings. It’s not even about alumni events. It’s about the students from current and future generations who will benefit so richly from the ripples of philanthropy that we’re creating here today.As you peruse this special section of Drake Blue, I hope you will enjoy reading about how distinctlyDrake is already making a difference in students’ lives.

Joan Middleton ED’63, GR’77
Recipient of 2009 Drake Alumni Loyalty Award

Interdisciplinary Centers

A Global Sphere of Influence: Internationalization brings opportunities for students, faculty 

When Lukas Olynyk traveled to Nairobi, Kenya, in the summer following his freshman year at Drake, his professional goals of working in the international arena took a more personal turn.

Not only did Olynyk serve as an intern and assistant caseworker for the Ngong Road Children’s Association, which provides education, medical care, meals and other support to children who have been affected by poverty and HIV/AIDS; he was able to meet Afline, the six-year-old girl his family had been sponsoring through the organization.

“I aided the case workers with checking up on the families and teachers of the children in the program,” says Olynyk. He also photographed and videotaped the surroundings and the children for the organization’s website ( and blogged as his worldview opened even further.

“I learned how fortunate we are here in the U.S. and how even with nothing to give, people in the developing world will open their hearts and homes and give you everything,” says Olynyk. “It taught me a lot about people — real people with real struggles. That outlook will stick with me for the rest of my life.”

Olynyk’s internship in Kenya was made possible thanks to the Global Service Grant Program, supported by the Principal Financial Group Center for Global Citizenship. The grant program provides financial support for students to take part in summer service activities abroad.

Today Olynyk is a senior international relations major/philosophy minor with a career focus on conflict resolution and the Middle East. He found his two months in Nairobi affirmed his future path  — working in the international arena.

Commitment to internationalization

The Center for Global Citizenship got its start 10 years ago, borne of Drake’s commitment to infusing academic offerings with a global perspective. A lead gift from R.W. and Mary Nelson got the center off the ground.

Recently, however, the center and the grant program that made Olynyk’s Africa experience possible have been greatly bolstered by distinctlyDrake. distinctlyDrake’s overall emphasis on creating interdisciplinary centers — and expansion of the Center for Global Citizenship in particular — brings a heightened visibility that has translated into progress. Recent leadership-level gifts from Principal Financial Group, its chairman, president and CEO Larry Zimpleman, BN’73, GR’79, and his wife, Kathi, and Ron Olson, BN’63, and his wife, Jane, are allowing this part of Drake’s vision to become a reality.

Also reinforcing Drake’s commitment to internationalization was the recent hiring of Christa Olson in the new position of vice provost for international programs.

“The Center for Global Citizenship has shifted culture and has gotten a lot more involved in international opportunities — not just for students but also for faculty — and helping to integrate experiences into the curriculum,“ says Olson.

“The Center for Global Citizenship is now an incubator for what we would like to see on a bigger scale on campus,” she says.

Capital Projects

A tasteful gift from the Hubbell family

A formerly vacant space in the north side of Hubbell Dining Hall is now a contemporary venue for students to dine, relax and play thanks to a $5 million renovation funded by donors to distinctlyDrake.

The project, unveiled in fall 2010, offers 18,500 square feet of renovated space. On the upper level is Quad Creek Café, an expansive dining area that includes a grill and stations for smoothies, pizza, subs, salads and international specialties in addition to a stage and a sophisticated projection system. Students can relax downstairs in Spike’s Spot, which offers a convenience store, conference rooms, large flat-screen TVs,
a pool table and video game stations.

The renovation project was made possible by gifts and pledges from the Hubbell family, Hubbell Realty Co. and the Windsor Charitable Foundation, along with funding from Sodexo, Inc.

Endowed faculty position spurs innovation

Drake magazine students are among the first to take their message to the iPad

Drake senior magazine majors have found their way into the homes, hands and even pockets of a diverse community the last two years with the publication of their all-digital lifestyle magazine, Urban Plains.

The decision to go digital-only came from the students, who worked under the guidance of instructor Jeff Inman to produce an online publication with fully-integrated multi-media. The magazine was also one of the first student-produced titles in the country distributed on the iPad.

“It’s the magazine experience on steroids,” says Lori Blachford, the Peggy Fisher and Larry Stelter Chair of Magazine Journalism. “It allows students to jump into new forums in a very practical way. If we can teach these students to take a risk in order to start something new, I don’t know that we can do any better by them.”

Blachford is Drake’s first endowed chair of magazine journalism, a position made possible by the foresight and generosity of Peggy Fisher, fa’70, and her husband, Larry Stelter. Considered the gold standard in academia, endowed positions provide for compensation and annual research funds in perpetuity. This long-term commitment to an academic program provides the level of academic freedom that inspires innovation, discovery and scholarly pursuits of the highest level.

“There is a motivation and responsibility that comes with an endowed position: to innovate, do the best work possible and to put Drake University on the map,” says Blachford.

Another way that has happened is with Think magazine, the spring capstone experience that combines magazine and news-Internet seniors. Think has gained national prominence the last two years by winning the ACP Pacemaker award as top college magazine in the country.

“The trust and confidence that Peggy and Larry have shown in the magazine program has really solidified the culture of success here,” Blachford says. “It’s a point of pride not just with the faculty but with the students as well. ”

The national attention has opened doors for Blachford, who serves as social media chair for the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communication and recently wrote a chapter on digital strategies for a new edition of the textbook The Magazine from Cover to Cover.

Many programs and institutions strive for innovation, visibility and enhanced reputation. At Drake, these ambitions have been accelerated by the addition of the Peggy Fisher and Larry Stelter chair of magazine journalism. These are the attributes that attract top scholars and students to campus. This enriched Drake community promotes collaboration — and results in exceptional opportunities like the ones experienced by students and faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Collective Strength

Philanthropy Week shows students the power of giving back

The spirit of Thanksgiving permeated the Drake campus for a week in November 2011, and there was much more to it than the anticipation of a turkey-fueled break. A week of activities during Philanthropy @ Drake Week had students actively celebrating the power of giving back.

Hosted by the Student Alumni Association, the week was designed to educate students about the impact that philanthropy has on their experience at Drake. Daily activities promoted appreciation for the gifts that make the Drake experience possible.

The week’s tone was set with signs placed in buildings, spaces and rooms that were made possible by Drake donors, telling the story of these people and their gifts to Drake. Events included a Thank-a-thon, where students wrote thank-you letters to donors and tweeted messages of thanks.

Students also participated in a day of good deeds that included everything from handing out candy and paying for strangers’ meals to letting coworkers know that their work is appreciated.

In addition to giving thanks, the student body came together to give back.

The week’s theme, 11 in 11, referred to the goal that 11 percent of Drake students contribute to The Drake Fund in 2011 — a goal that, if reached, would bring a challenge gift of $11,000 from Joe Aiello, BN’80, president of the National Alumni Board Association of Directors and his wife, Leslie, FA’79.

Drake students surpassed the goal: Fifteen percent contributed to the fund, with proceeds designated for general scholarships.

The event was the second of its kind; the inaugural Philanthropy @ Drake Week was held in February 2011. A third event was held in February 2012.

“The goal was to raise awareness that everyone at Drake is touched by philanthropy,” says Blake Campbell, GR’05, director of alumni relations, “and to help students understand that Drake is what it is because of a 130-year history of giving back.”

Access to Opportunities

Scholarships allow friends, alumni to pave the way

Some 98 percent of Drake students receive financial aid — a total of $48 million in 2011. The funds are available thanks in large part to the generosity of the alumni and friends who want to pave the way for future generations of students.

Each fall, many scholarship benefactors receive letters of thanks from the recipients of their generosity. These letters from students, a few of which are excerpted on this page, speak for themselves. They serve as testimony not only to the life-changing power of education but also to the opportunities made possible by giving back.

“… my dad passed away when I was 11  … the burden of paying for my education was lightened considerably when I received a very special letter saying I had been awarded the Gaudiner scholarship … [it] was a dream come true. “

“I do not even begin to know how to express my gratitude for the spectacular opportunity you have given me.”

“I know that none of the experiences I am privileged to partake in at Drake would be possible without your scholarship gift. I am putting myself through school and have the desire to attend veterinary school after I graduate from Drake … You are making a wonderful difference in my life!”

“I am an international student from South Korea and I came to Drake University looking for a better education … My goal is to become a successful actuary and support my younger brother’s tuition.”

Lasting Impact

Daughter’s scholarship moves father to provide opportunity for others

Pay it forward. It’s a familiar phrase used in casual conversation — but how many people have actually done it?

“Phil” has. We’ll call him Phil because his modesty dictates that he remain anonymous.

Last fall, from what seemed like out of the blue, Phil called Drake’s development office; he wanted to repay the tuition scholarship his daughter had received more than 15 years ago.

“The scholarship program was excellent — it really helped my financial situation when my oldest daughter was going to Drake,” says Phil. Without the tuition scholarship, his daughter would not have been able to attend Drake, the only school to which she had applied.

Phil’s daughter graduated from Drake in the mid-’90s and went on to pursue a graduate degree at Harvard. By that time, Phil was in a better financial situation and able to support both his daughters’ educational pursuits.

“Helping my daughters get the best education possible is the best investment I ever made in my life,” says Phil. “And now, with both of them having their own families and my financial obligations no longer being a burden for me, I feel like it is the right time for me to pay back Drake and society.”

Phil did more than “pay back” Drake. He gave the University twice the amount awarded to his daughter to establish the Minnesota Scholarship Fund for Excellence, an endowed scholarship that will provide financial assistance to Minnesotans attending Drake who demonstrate a financial need.

“I hope my support for the [scholarship] program at Drake reminds others of the importance of higher education,” says Phil.

On the topic of remaining anonymous, Phil says, “I’ve been fortunate to move up in my career and retire without financial worries. I don’t need any more recognition.”

Making Good on Our Promise

Since the public launch of distinctlyDrake in 2010, President David Maxwell, key volunteers and hundreds of passionate alumni and friends have gathered in 14 cities to celebrate the success of Drake University.

Throughout all of these events, the common thread is our vision to be — and be recognized as — one of the best institutions of higher education in the United States.

At these gatherings, I’m always struck by the powerful connection shared by our alumni and friends. It’s clear from their voices that they are energized by the promise of their University, and recognize the important role they play in defining that future.

Drake students, faculty and staff are extremely grateful to the loyal alumni and friends who have embraced every dimension of distinctlyDrake. While the entire Drake community celebrates this remarkable moment in the campaign, we also recognize that there is tremendous work to be done.

There is much expected from Drake University in large part because there is much expected from each of you — our alumni, friends, and community partners. distinctlyDrake provides an opportunity for every member of the Drake community to participate and make a difference.

I thank you for choosing to support Drake University and the distinctlyDrake campaign, and respectfully ask for your continued engagement and generosity. Your gifts transform our community — and enable future generations to create their own personal and powerful Drake stories.


John Smith, AS’92, GR’00, Vice President, Alumni and Development

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