Story by Ed Berthiaume / Communications

Lawrence University supporters contributed more than $1.9 million Thursday on the school’s annual Giving Day, the second most in the event’s seven-year history.

In all, 2,987 alumni, faculty, staff, students, and friends participated in an event that went all virtual amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

“To see this level of support in these trying times is a testament to the generous spirit of our Lawrence community,” President Mark Burstein said. “We are so very grateful. The funds raised will support the essential needs of our students today and in the future in countless ways.”

Giving Day festivities annually draw attention to how the financial contributions support Lawrence students, from campus improvements and sustainability efforts to academic innovations and opportunities in arts and athletics.

“I don’t think I can properly express how blown away I was by how the Lawrence community came together to support Giving Day,” said Amber Nelson, associate director of Annual Giving and project manager for Giving Day. “The success of the day really shined a light on how impressive the Lawrence community is and how they support each other.”

The Giving Day success is the continuation of momentum that has been building since the launch of the $220 million Be the Light! Campaign, quietly in January 2014 and then publicly in November 2018. The campaign, the largest in Lawrence’s history, is scheduled to close at the end of 2020.

A Be the Light! Virtual Happy Hour was held Thursday as part of Giving Day, giving alumni and others a chance to interact. The first-time event was a rousing success, said Matt Baumler, executive director of Alumni and Constituency Engagement.

“It was an incredible display of community,” he said. “Lawrentians and Downerites from around the globe came together to celebrate, to learn, and to share their light.”

Most of the funds raised Thursday will go to the Lawrence Fund, which is used to support the day-to-day operations of the campus and the student experience. The Lawrence Fund is one of the pillars of the Be the Light! Campaign.

Monies donated were matched by supporters who agreed to be “game changers” in the Giving Day campaign. Every game-changer challenge was met, Nelson said.

“I thought it was really impactful to see the engagement that was happening on social media this year,” she said. “One of the Giving Day challenges was #LULights, where we ask people to share a story about someone at Lawrence who changed their life for the better. It was extremely moving reading all of the positive stories of people’s experiences at Lawrence, and it made me very proud to work here.”

The Be the Light! Campaign includes the Lawrence Fund as one of its four cornerstones, along with the Full Speed to Full Need initiative to make Lawrence accessible and affordable to all academically qualifying students, the Student Journey, which has welcomed numerous endowed positions aimed at supporting cutting edge programs and course offerings, and Campus Renewal, targeting facility and infrastructure upgrade projects on campus.

Ed Berthiaume is director of public information at Lawrence University. Email: ed.c.berthiaume@lawrence.edu