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Witt alumns rally to support Springfield student

Alumni giving identified as a crucial factor in Wittenberg’s recovery and future.

Springfield High School graduate Lane Schlicher will be able to focus more closely on learning this year at Wittenberg University because of the additional scholarship he received last week from Clark County alumni.

Wittenberg supporter Fred Leventhal hopes the people he rallied to donate $20,000 toward the cause also have learned something about the crucial role they need to play in the university’s future.

“To me, that was as important a thing as the money,” said Leventhal, a former board member and long time benefactor.

“We have 1,400 (local) alumni, and they’re a lot of good people, but they haven’t melded together on a local project. I thought it was important to get the alumni to do something concrete.”

All this was nearly sacred music to the ears of Wittenberg University President Laurie Joyner.

As Joyner pointed out during an online Town Hall meeting Sept. 8, the Council for Aid to Education’s 2012 volunteer Support of Education Report said just 12 percent of Wittenberg alumni participate annually in supporting the school.

Joyner compared that with Kenyon College’s 34 percent and percentages of 23-27 percent for alumni of Ohio Wesleyan, University, the College of Wooster and Oberlin College.

“We need to double the number of individuals that are making consistent donations to the annual fund,” she said.

“It is much more important that you give a consistent gift each year than to get hung up on the size of the gift,” she said. “Just writing the check, year after year, is what’s critically important to us.”

Sophia Vandiford, Wittenberg’s director of annual giving, said alumni gifts of unrestricted funds are important for two reasons.

First, the unrestricted gifts help balance the annual operating budget, which has just returned to the black after years in the red. Second, “Alumni participation signifies how our alumni feel about their educational experience.”

Vandiford said the university was planning a Clark County outreach because “we realized we have a lot of local alums that have not probably really been engaged with Wittenberg for a number of years.”

The university decided to use the momentum Leventhal created to launch its Greater Springfield Alumni Chapter at an Aug. 23 gathering at the Westcott House.

The group will try to continue to raise money so the scholarship might help Schlicher and succeeding students through all four years of their college careers.

In awarding the scholarship, “We looked definitely at financial need, and we wanted a student from Springfield High for this cycle,” said Karen Hunt, director of admissions.

Another goal, she said, was to find a student “who could help to kind of invigorate the alums.”

Schlicher seems to have had that effect on many of the faculty he’s met.

“I’m really excited for Lane,” said Corwin Georges, professor of Theater and Dance and department chair. “He really impressed me when he auditioned with us.”

Georges said that when talking with others who had met him, “We all laughed because we all had the same response. We’re proud that he’s going to be here at Wittenberg.”

A freshman considering a triple major in German, theater and education, “he never stops amazing me,” said his Schlicher’s mother, Debbie O’Brien, who laughed with pleasure as she heard about the scholarship.

“I think he did as much research in scholarships as he did homework” during his senior year, she said.

Schlicher, who was an active volunteer as well as a good student involved in the International Baccalaureate program, ended up helping his friends fill out the complex FAFSA files for student aid.

The deciding factor in his own choice of schools was scholarship money: “Wittenberg had a theater scholarship that Wright State didn’t.”

This semester he is taking art of the theater, philosophy of education, premodern world history and the art of living ethically.

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