1896 Society Gala celebrates a remarkable year of giving

Oct 24, 2011


By Annmarie Ely

DelVal honored members of its 1896 Society, the top-tier of college supporters, at a gala held in the Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie, Pa. on Thursday, Oct. 20.

Members comprise 9 percent of donors and gave 80 percent of gifts to the college last year.

There was a cocktail hour followed by a formal dinner. Tours of the Pearl Buck home were given to those who were interested.

The event has been growing and DelVal administrators are impressed with the generosity of alumni and friends.

“We used to hold this around one table, maybe 2… we have 180 people here today,” said Dr. James F. Trainer, chair of DelVal’s Board of Trustees. “We offer our heartfelt thanks for your generosity.”

College President Dr. Joseph S. Brosnan said he loves the event. He was excited to see more leadership donors, more volunteers and more caring community partners engaging with DelVal.

He said DelVal is an institution on the move and thanked 1896 members for being an important part of that momentum.

DelVal is doing well despite a challenging economic environment.

Dr. Brosnan said that while nationally institutions and organizations are cutting programs, DelVal is bucking major negative trends.

The college added six new faculty members, is refurbishing facilities, will construct a signature life science building and is adding programs, with one being a new master’s degree in teaching and learning.

Dr. Brosnan said that more students are applying to DelVal, so the college is being more selective. The average SAT scores are up.

Fall-to-fall retention is also up and DelVal’s six-year graduation rate is up 5 percent.

He also said that as of June 30 the endowment had more than doubled.

This year the college received the transformational gift from The Warwick Foundation, a $1 million gift from Joe Umosella ’63, $3.2 million from the state in support of the life science center, $383,000 from the Cargill Foundation and many other generous gifts that will support the college’s special mission.

The college’s annual fund has grown by 92 percent in three years. This unrestricted fund helps support academic programs as well as student life.

“This is all evidence of an institution that is on the move,” said Dr. Brosnan.

Dr. Brosnan recognized four trustees -- Bob Lipinski, Bill Mullin, Mike Moss and Kevin Keim -- who combined to give $100,000 as a challenge to all alumni, parents and friends to make a first gift or to increase their gifts.

The challenge resulted in more than $177,000 from new and increased gifts.

“I’ve given you a lot of statistics,” said Dr. Brosnan. “It’s not the numbers, it’s not the dollars, it’s how they’re being used. These dollars are going towards improving students’ lives.”

Alumni and friends not only give financially, they also give their time to make DelVal the place that it is. For this reason, the college recognized an exceptional volunteer with an award at the gala.

The Pat Hilton Award is given each year to a person who has devoted extraordinary time and service, on a volunteer basis, to DelVal. It is named in honor of Patricia Hilton ’76, a long-time trustee of the college and an active member of the college community.

The award was a surprise for recipient Jerry Fritz ’88, a loyal alumnus and a member of the President’s Advisory Council.

“You have been a thoughtful voice on the Council, providing insight on issues in strategic planning,” said Dr. Brosnan as he presented the award. “As needs arise you have responded consistently to help.”

Fritz, the owner of a Linden Hill Gardens and Jerry Fritz Garden Design, has put his 20-plus years of experience in the field to use at DelVal by helping with campus beautification projects. He’s also volunteered to help with the Annual Fund.

“Thank you so much,” said Fritz. “Our college is a phenomenal place… it is so nice to be among friends and professors that I had.”

New members of the 1896 Society were asked to stand and were applauded at the event. Among them were a some young faces including: Amanda Leirvik ’10 , Bryan Coleman ’10, Hakim Singleton ’10, Seth Maurer ’09, Christina Fortin ’08 and Bonnie Kizis ’09.

Senior class president Daniel Rivera, a business administration major, gave guests a personal look at what DelVal has meant to him as a student.

“DelVal has changed my life forever in so many ways,” said Rivera. “Both inside and outside of the classroom.”

He remembered taking the train to and from a center city internship.

“My first thought getting off the train (at DelVal) was, 'I’m home,” said Rivera. “Even though I live off campus.”

He said after a tour of DelVal he had an overwhelming feeling telling him “this is where I belong.”

He specialized in marketing, joined the equestrian team and started a new organization on campus.

“DelVal has given me opportunities to grow in ways I never thought I was capable of,” said Rivera. “I started as a boy and left as a man. A man proud to call Delaware Valley College my alma mater.”

He said as he is getting ready to graduate he feels like he is getting ready to leave home again