Campaign Update

A Collective Responsibility

What are your aspirations for Drake University?
How does Drake’s reputation affect you and the value of your degree?

The answer to these questions is personal. However, when answered by more than 65,000 alumni they have a strong, collective, and defining impact.

Drake recently completed a strategic planning process, which outlines how we plan to accomplish our vision to serve as a model institution of higher education and innovatively address the challenges of the 21st century. While there are multiple indicators of our progress toward making our ambitions a reality, there are others that convey a more challenging path.

Without tiptoeing around the issue, Drake’s vision requires resources. It is my hope that we can engage in an honest exchange regarding Drake and the leadership role alumni play in providing financial and inspirational support.

One of the great privileges of my job is visiting with alumni, and during these visits, a high percentage share with me their affection and hopes for Drake, our faculty, and our students. Recent survey findings tell us that more than 80 percent of our alumni have favorable to very favorable feelings toward their Drake experience. For many of our alumni these sentiments develop into active volunteer engagement and transformational philanthropic support, and we are deeply appreciative of that.

However, our alumni’s passion for Drake does not always translate into annual giving. Approximately 12 percent of graduates make a gift to Drake during the fiscal year, which is below the level of giving at other Midwestern colleges and universities:

  • Creighton University–19 percent
  • Butler University–23 percent
  • Northwestern University–29 percent
  • DePauw University–31 percent
  • Carlton College–58 percent

What do these alumni participation rates say about each institution? These colleges and universities are communities defined by a sense of shared ownership and collective responsibility. They reflect a culture where alumni are enthusiastic and proud to be part of something larger than themselves.

Drake is a remarkable community, which leads me to ask two questions: Why is there a significant gap between alumni giving participation and positive feelings toward the Drake experience? What will it take for Drake to develop a culture where financial participation is embraced as a meaningful opportunity to define Drake’s future?

These are big questions with answers that have significant impact on our shared aspirations. I welcome your ideas related to alumni engagement and participation or comments about why you give to Drake. Please let me know your thoughts by email at

In closing, I know that many of you love Drake University. As we move toward our vision for the University through distinctlyDrake, it is time to transform our shared affection into a culture where everyone feels a sense of ownership and commitment to Drake’s promising future. Drake can make real its vision when we all work toward common goals. Your participation matters. You matter.

Thank you for your engagement in the life of Drake and your constructive feedback.

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

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