Lisa Kudrow, Vassar trustee, doesn’t show up to every fundraising event shaking her pom-poms. But the student-faculty basketball game last February wasn’t like any other event.
“At first, no one thought we could pull it off,” says Brian Farkas, class of 2010, but like most Vassar students, he didn’t let that kind of thinking stop him. With the help of dean of the college Chris Roellke, Farkas recruited an enthusiastic team of students (varsity players were excluded) and equally eager members of the faculty (to their great advantage, the varsity coaches somehow eked their way on) to participate in the first athletics event of its kind on this campus. According to college historian Betty Daniels, it was the most attended sports event in Vassar’s history, with nearly 2,000 students, faculty, administrators, families, and friends showing up to cheer on the players.
But it wasn’t only fun and games. The event was conceived as a way to raise funds for the Class of 2010’s Senior Class Gift, an endowed scholarship fund to support the college’s commitment to making a Vassar education a viable option for all qualified applicants. “President Hill has been such a vocal advocate for access. We wanted to send a message that the students believe in this as much as the administration does,” says Farkas, who is a co-chair of the Senior Class Gift Committee. “We wanted to send a strong signal that financial aid is a priority. While other schools are starting to reverse some of their policies, we’re moving in the opposite direction and actually increasing our financial aid.”
For this history and political science major who has served as vice president of the Vassar Student Association and editor of the Miscellany News, a sporting competition was an unlikely avenue for rallying his classmates. “As you may have guessed, Vassar students tend to be very individualistic,” says Farkas. “I wanted to do something that would help bring everyone together, and build school spirit.” Admission was set at $2 per ticket, and many spectators made voluntary contributions as the momentum grew throughout the game. “We had tables set up, and people came by at halftime or when they were getting something to eat. Some would literally throw money at us. It was really inspiring,” says Farkas.
The final score was close, but in the end the faculty claimed a one point victory. Of course, future students are the real winners, with the Class of 2010 Endowed Scholarship Fund providing assistance as early as the coming academic year. The class raised $22,690 in all, and that amount will be matched 2:1 by a generous (and anonymous) alum. More than $4,000 was raised through ticket sales and other donations at the basketball game. “It was a fabulous experience for everyone who participated,” says Farkas. “It went above and beyond in every way I can imagine. We started a new tradition at Vassar, a really incredible one.”