Students, faculty, staff give "A Thousand Thanks" to UNH donors and alumni

By Lily O'Gara
On November 16, 2012

Writing 1,000 thank-you notes might seem a daunting task for some, but the members of the UNH community that gathered for the university's "A Thousand Thanks" party on Nov. 14 were up to the challenge.

In recognition of National Philanthropy Day, which is observed on Nov. 15, UNH faculty, students and staff gathered in the Granite State Room to sign 1,000 personal, handwritten cards to send to donors to the university.

"The point [of the event] is to educate faculty, staff, and students about giving," said Megan C. Hales, a graduate of the class of 2001 who now works for the Alumni Association.

Hales emphasized that gifts and donations of all sizes are important and appreciated by the university.
Maxine Morse and her late husband, Richard Morse, have donated a significant amount of money to UNH over the years. Richard Morse attended the university as an undergraduate and later served as trustee and chairman of the Board of the University System of New Hampshire (USNH). Morse Hall was named as such in recognition of Richard Morse's work.

Maxine Morse said she believes that philanthropy is important, and that people who are blessed to be able to give have a responsibility to do so.

Donating to higher education, particularly public higher education in New Hampshire, is a priority for Maxine Morse. It has become even more critical, she said, due to the recent extreme budget cuts to USNH.

Maxine Morse's donations support scholarships for the arts, and she enjoys attending all of the UNH Department of Theatre and Dance productions, she said.

"UNH is such a wonderful institution, with such a wonderful faculty and great students. It's a privilege to help," she said.

Maxine Morse then pointed to her pin, which read, "I believe in UNH."

"It's true," she said, smiling.

The pins were given out to attendees when they entered the event, and seemed to genuinely reflect the atmosphere in the room. The students in attendance were very enthusiastic.

"It's a great opportunity to thank donors," said Raya Sultan Al-Hashmi, a senior English/journalism major.

 She added that the free food, drinks and prizes were a nice bonus, but indicated that she did not personally feel that incentive to give thanks was even needed.  

Julie Skafidas, an undergraduate transfer at the university, works for the UNH Foundation's Phonathon, an organization that has already raised $150,000 this semester.

To raise money via telephone requires that the students bond with alumni, and listen to and share university experiences. Skafidas said that the goal was to try to make alumni excited about UNH all over again, and to remind them that their money would be put to good use.

Skafidas stressed that giving really does make a difference. She said she hopes to contribute to funding someday, as well.  

"I'm looking forward to being an alum and giving back that way," she said.

Lisa Santilli was an English major who graduated in 2011 and is now on the other side of things, as she now works for the university through Donor Relations and University Advancement.

"As a UNH alum, I found the benefits of being a student. Working here is a way of giving back," Santilli said.

Santilli added that she enjoys helping other students further their own careers, many of which might not be possible without scholarship donations and other forms of charity.

UNH Athletics also had a "Wildcat Fund Station" set up, and staff members were educating students about athletic funding.

According to Eric Nappy, the assistant director of athletics for the Annual Giving for Athletics Development, there are currently 19 "friends groups" that raise operational support for athletics. Athletics has to support 20 varsity sports and subsidize an $8 million scholarship budget.

While this is a daunting task, Nappy said that they are definitely making a dent. Last year, athletic donations increased by 24 percent; Fifty percent of donors are athletics alums, so connecting with and engaging alumni is crucial.

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