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Alumni Rally Lifts McCombs School to Higher Ground

Dean Thomas W. Gilligan of the McCombs School of BusinessWe're feeling the love right now at the McCombs School, with 6,300 alumni donors to thank, including 500 who pitched in the last week of our annual campaign to carry us to a new high of 8.1 percent participation. I offer my sincere appreciation to each of you for coming through on behalf of your alma mater.

The incentive to give was personal, with one-on-one appeals from alumni to their former classmates, many delivered via social media. An example was this Tweet from Rally.org:

Rally.org @rally

Can you @rally with @UTexasMcCombs to reach the alumni giving goal in time for #longhornsaturday? ral.ly/t/713648 #HookEm

Lisa Michelle FrankelLet's put a name and a face to one of the thousands who joined in the response. We recently received two $50 gifts from Lisa Michelle Frankel, MBA '09: one gift to support the department of marketing and another to support the MBA program. With these two gifts, the alumni campaign exceeded the $2 million mark, and just days later we met our goal of reaching 8 percent participation from McCombs alumni.

She explained, "When I got the appeal from Dr. Wayne Hoyer in the marketing department, it reminded me that alumni giving strengthens our MBA rankings and that every little bit helps. I feel as if I'm investing in the value of my own degree, and 'paying it forward' to the school that invested so much in me."

Lisa, who is Director of Menu Development for Luby's Fuddruckers Restaurants, told me the one thing she values most about her educational experience is the "incredible network of alumni and professors that have impacted my life."

Why a goal of 8 percent?

Keary Kinch and her team in Alumni Relations and Annual Giving are on a quest to raise the level of participation among alumni, a noble endeavor that strengthens the already consequential McCombs Alumni Network. 

Participation is fostered at many levels within the school, from the annual alumni business conference to football weekend tailgate parties, Knowledge-to-Go webinars and local alumni chapter events. And yes, it involves giving back to the school through financial support, at all levels of giving.

Some mistakenly believe a top-tier business school is sustained by large donations of millions of dollars. While those monumental gifts are certainly essential to reach key milestones such as the planned Robert B. Rowling Hall, it is through annual gifts of smaller amounts that a powerful alumni network is created. Year-after-year gifts enable individual programs to endure, impacting lives and careers for generations. Annual giving is also factored into the widely followed U.S. News and World Report college rankings.

Our alumni participation rate had been hovering at 5 percent, and we knew that the business alumni of The University of Texas at Austin had the potential for much greater engagement, as seen at institutions such as USC Marshall School of Business, with a 20 percent giving rate. Last year we set our sights on achieving a 10 percent participation rate by 2014, and I'm pleased to see us marching confidently toward that goal.

An investment in our Texas roots

Alumni supporters are investing in something larger than their own education and career. Andrew Phong Vo, BBA '95, the 2013 Alumni Ambassador of the Year, expressed it well when he said:

"Knowing your roots means appreciating where you come from, the path you've taken, and most importantly, who helped you get to where you are today."

Thanks to the efforts of John Adams, BBA '66, JD '69, and more than 110 McCombs Ambassadors who have helped recruit support from their classmates, student scholarships are up, endowments are up, and we've introduced enhanced student programming such as LeaderShape┬« and expanded opportunities to study abroad. 

Thank you, Lisa Michelle Frankel, for putting us over the top of our $2 million goal. To each of the 6,300 alumni who searched their hearts and their pocketbooks in order to share with the next generation of business leaders from UT Austin, I say, "The Grateful Eyes of Texas are Upon You."

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