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Athletic Events Help Raise
Funds for Academic Programs
By Val Merriman
The University's academic leadership has embraced athletic programs as a powerful tool for spreading the word about UConn, and strengthenin g their own programs in the process. Months before the UConn Husky men and women advanced beyond the Big East this year, and the women capped their perfect record with the NCAA crown, the Schools of Business, Fine Arts, Law, Engineering, and others were calling it a championship season.
Peter Deckers, executive vice president of the Health Center and dean of the School of Medicine has, for a number of years, invited groups of two to four current and prospective donors to UConn Husky games. The Health Center also is a sponsor of the University's athletic programs, a strategy that identifies it with the programs and provides exposure for its clinical services.
"The UConn Health Center, our Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, and the University of Connecticut are all synonymous with success," says Dr. Deckers. "What better way to demonstrate the point than to invite our constituents to watch UConn's winning athletes at their best?"
Richard Schwab, dean of the Neag School of Education, has hosted groups of up to 30 prospective donors, school superintendents, legislators, and faculty at athletic events several times a year for the past five years. "UConn athletic venues provide an opportunity to bring constituents to campus informally for several hours, not only to enjoy a game but to talk about the University and our vision for the Neag School. We have had great results," he says.
The University's goal to be recognized among the top 25 public colleges in the nation by the end of the decade is being advanced by Campaign UConn. Increasingly, faculty and staff recognize that the most important strategy is teamwork.
Inherent is the tenet that if one school or college advances, the entire University steps forward. When a dean makes time to attend a Foundation-sponsored athletic or other event, it benefits the entire community. Deckers wrote in a March 25 guest column in the Advance: "... our basketball teams have built a tradition of success because they work hard to accomplish aggressive, team-oriented goals. [Their] success in the tournaments is not only good for the programs and the University, but ... most UConn basketball fans enjoy the excitement and inner glow that comes from backing a winner."
Schwab agrees. "Our goal is for the Neag School of Education to be one of the top 10 in the country," he says. "Connecting with donors by inviting them to brunch and a men's or women's basketball game spreads the word about excellence at UConn and helps the entire University with fund raising."
The flash and the splash of top quality, high-octane athletics is what draws the fans - among them, some of UConn's current and future benefactors - to athletic events. "Name one land-grant public university that doesn't have a nationally competitive athletic program," says Nevin Kessler, vice president for development at the UConn Foundation.
"The more successful the University's athletic programs," he says, "the more fuel they add to the fund-raising fire - providing the financial resources to underwrite academic excellence."