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‘Allegheny is investing’

Cole announces $10m gift to renovate Brooks
Sami Mirza
President Ron Cole, ’87, addresses the college’s faculty and staff at the “State of the College” on Feb. 1.

President Ron Cole, ’87, announced the first of what will be a series of major gifts to the college at his “State of the College” address in Shafer Auditorium on the afternoon of Thursday, Feb. 1. The presentation, delivered to Allegheny’s faculty and staff, outlined the next steps for the college’s strategic pathway, which Cole said will be fueled by a series of six- and seven-figure gifts to the college.
“I want to emphasize that we cannot chart our path to thrive by cutting our way out,” Cole said. “Rather, it’s through strategic investments that we pave the way to excellence and innovation.”
The “State of the College” comes as the college’s strategic plan pivots into implementation.
The development of the strategic pathway, launched by Cole just under a year ago, was administered by the Hill Group, a Pittsburgh-based consultancy firm, and used feedback from students, faculty and the college administration to define five values of the college — excellence, innovation, inclusion, community and sustainability — as well as five primary goals, which were Academic Excellence and Strong Outcomes, Vibrant and Inclusive Campus, Broaden Academic Offerings, Community and Economic Development, and Operational and Financial Sustainability.
This new series of “lead donations” is seen by senior leadership as an endorsement of the college’s strategic pathway by alumni and the wider Allegheny community. The gifts are also designed to send a message to prospective students.
“I want to demonstrate to them that Allegheny College is a place that’s on the move, Allegheny is investing in our students, investing in you, investing in our future,” Cole told the assembled college employees.

The first major gift comes from Patricia Bush Tippie, ’56, a longtime donor to the college alongside her late husband, Henry Tippie.
The Tippies have given millions to the college over the years, including a gift in the early 2000s to create the Tippie Alumni Center and $7 million in 2018 to help fund the $13 million renovation of Bentley Hall.
Now, Patricia Tippie is donating $16 million — including $10 million in a “visionary gift” to renovate Brooks Hall, Cole said.
“This meets a critical need and stands as a testament to Pat’s dedication to creating a more vibrant campus community,” Cole said. “It’s a testament to her belief and investment in our strong future.”
In an interview this week, Vice President for Intsitutional Advancement Matt Stinson said that while many members of the Allegheny community have a strong connection to the Brooks residential experience, the hall needs an upgrade.
“The bones of it are good, the nostalgia is good, but I would venture to guess if you asked a bunch of students, there’s some TLC that’s missing from that building,” Stinson said.
That “tender love and care” has already materialized; the Brooks laundry room has been moved from the basement to the first floor and attached to a new lounge and kitchenette. Currently, Physical Plant is waiting on materials to adjust door configurations to improve accessibility, said Joe Michael, who heads Physical Plant.
“We’re going to change some door configurations to make it more accessible,” Michael said. “And we’re doing some prep work as we go through the design for the elevator.”
Adding a lift is a major part of the renovations to what Stinson called “not a very accessible building.”
“There’s an elevator in that building; it’s not an ideal location, it’s not always as functional as we would like it to be,” Stinson said of Brooks. “This will provide an opportunity for a brand-new modern elevator so that anybody can go from any floor to any floor in the entire building.”
Michael said that his office has talked to three engineering companies who are currently drafting their design proposals for the elevator. Though specific details are still up in the air, Michael did say that the elevator would have at least seven stops and would require the additional installation of ramps on two floors.
Michael said that his team is also in the “discovery” phase of a plan to add air conditioning to the Brooks complex. At this stage, Michael’s team is still figuring out if the Brooks complex can be cooled through the same system of pipes that is used for heating, or if a second system of pipes must be installed.
“Most buildings on campus run on one system, which is why we have that one-week switchover because you can’t have both on,” Michael said.
Much of the work will be done while students are off-campus for the summer, and although a set timeline is still yet to be determined, students can expect the upgrades to take some time.
“It’ll last — we’re talking multiple years,” Michael said.
Tippie’s $10 million donation will not be the last word; Stinson said that his team is planning to leverage the initial amount to raise another $10 million for a total sticker price of $20 million for improvements to Brooks.
“Her initial gift will allow us to do some of the behind-the-scenes things that are really necessary,” Stinson said.

Reis Hall gift
Another large gift is pending for the renovation of Reis Hall, Cole said Thursday. Formerly the college’s library, Reis was emptied in 2018 during the Bentley renovation and has remained so — save for a few pop-up pubs — since then. The college received $2 million in state funding to work on Reis in October 2022, though the project has been quiet since.
“Today, I’m pleased to share that we’re on the horizon of a major gift for that project — what will likely be the largest single gift in Allegheny’s history,” Cole said. “It’s too soon to announce the details and it remains anonymous for now, but its impact, I believe, will resonate across our campus as Reis Hall is transformed into a center for innovation and interdisciplinary studies that will intersect a wide range of our academic areas.”
Reis will be used to house the Allegheny Lab for Innovation and Creativity, Cole said. The ALIC has shared space in the Doane Hall of Art since it was opened in 2019.
Moving to Reis would be the second upgrade for the ALIC since November, when the college opened “ALIC @ Bessemer” in Meadville as a place for workforce and entrepreneurial development.
The gift, Stinson said, is part of a “very complex estate.”
“Some of the payments on that estate are starting to come in February, and the people associated with that estate are very excited about our concept for Reis Hall and the vision that is going to be there: a center for innovation and a center for interdisciplinary studies,” Stinson said.
“It’s a showcase, quite frankly, for all of what we do at Allegheny — combining major-minor combinations, combining interdisciplinary studies.”
Michael said that the college went through a five-month request for proposal process to find a company to lead the work on Reis, reviewing proposals from a dozen companies before awarding a contract in December to the Rothschild Doyno Collaborative, which will be partnering with Mosites Construction & Development Company on the project. Both firms are based in Pittsburgh.
Reis, like Brooks, is still largely in the “discovery” phase as designers prepare their plans and workers test the building for materials like asbestos. When work begins, it is set to be completed in two phases: interior and exterior.
“When people return in the fall, there will be some activity,” Michael said. “The goal is hopefully we will start doing some work this summer. The design won’t be done until November for both phases.”

Gator Give Day and SIF
Tippie’s gift totals $16 million; in addition to the $10 million for Brooks, she’s committed to giving $5 million over five years to Gator Give Day, to fund matching opportunities for other donors, and $1 million in an endowment to create a Student Investment Fund at Allegheny.
The SIF, proposed by a group of Business and Economics students, would mirror similar projects at other universities and allow students to gain experience investing on the stock market.
“That’ll be 100% run by students, under the guidance of faculty and an advisory board,” Stinson said. “Our students are going to manage that fund and get real world experience on how that works. I believe that will be unique for a school of our size.”
All three donations, Stinson said, match a goal in the college’s strategic pathway. The SIF fulfills Goal 1: “Academic Excellence and Strong Outcomes;” the Brooks renovation, Goal 2: “Vibrant and Inclusive Campus;” and Gator Give Day, Goal 5: “Operational and Financial Sustainability.”
“You look at those three different things and they really overlap with multiple strategic pathway goals,” Stinson said

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Strategic Pathway
Matching donations to elements of the college’s strategic pathway is a big part of the next few months. Cole said there was “clear evidence” that following the strategic pathway will increase enrollment, which will in turn grow revenue, providing for a “top student and employee experience.”
“That’s fundamentally critical and important to me,” Cole told faculty and staff. “I believe we can’t have the best student experience until you feel that you’re also supported as part of the Allegheny experience, and I know we’ve got work to do.”
Strategic teams have been formed to tackle each of the strategic pathway’s five goals and 14 sub-goals and will start developing and implementing tactics to meet those goals.
“At the core of success is that there’s clear communication across these teams and with the campus,” Cole said. “This will not be a scattered approach.”
Baked into this implementation is a word that has been used in regard to the college’s accreditation over the last eight months: assessment. Allegheny received a “Notice of Non-Compliance” due to insufficient evidence that the college was reviewing and adjusting its practices to continually improve.
“If we do something that isn’t working, we need to stop doing it or improve it,” Cole said at the State of the College.
Cole also said that the use of the strategic pathway represented Allegheny’s response to shifts in the landscape of higher education, including the oft-cited “demographic cliff” of fewer high school graduates nationwide. He added that the old system of spending a year or more creating a decade-long strategy was “gone from higher education.”
“The comfort of developing a 10-year plan is no longer something that we enjoy,” Cole said. “It’s hard to predict what will happen a few years from now, let alone 10 years from now. We as an institution need to be prepared, to be nimble, to be able to adjust to a changing landscape, and I’m proud of how we’ve been able to do that.”

Fall campaign
The major gifts are part of the lead-up to the next big thing in Allegheny’s fundraising efforts — a campaign that will go public in the fall. Most of the details are still up in the air, though specific dollar amounts and strategies will be set in time for a presentation to the Board of Trustees in October, Stinson said.
“Our goal, other than just raising money, is to make sure that everybody sees themselves and can find their place in this strategic pathway moving forward,” Stinson added. “The campaign will be nontraditional, in that it won’t just be about raising money. It’ll be about giving alumni of all ages and all backgrounds an opportunity to participate in ways that are meaningful to them and beneficial to the college.”
In the meantime, Stinson said that the plan is to announce a major donation every two to four weeks, timed as prospective students are making college decisions. The ultimate goal is to use donations — like Tippie’s gift towards Brooks — as a message that Allegheny is here to stay.
“Imagine a time next year when a potential student and their family is coming across campus and there’s construction everywhere, there’s investments being made, there’s stories being told about the great outcomes our students are having,” Stinson said. “We believe we are very fortunate to be in a position that is going to differentiate ourselves from a lot of those other institutions with the amount of investment that is taking place on our campus. We are going to invest heavily, and our alumni, families and friends are stepping up in inspiring ways.”

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About the Contributor
Sami Mirza
Sami Mirza, Editor-in-Chief
Sami Mirza is a senior from many different places. He is majoring in International Studies with a focus on the Middle East and North Africa and minor in Arabic. This is his fourth year on staff and his second in the EIC position; he has previously worked on News and Features. When not writing, shooting, or editing for The Campus, Sami can be found playing a surprisingly healthy amount of video games, working the graveyard shift at Pelletier Library, and actually doing his homework.
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  • A

    Al Coppolo ‘78Feb 11, 2024 at 8:33 am

    Allegheny continues to thrive on the generosity of many of its loyal alumni. Congratulations to them and particularly Pat Tippee for their outstanding leadership in this regard. President Cole has an outstanding plan for the college and it will lead to the college’s growing success, with one caveat. The college’s admission and marketing functions are broken. Through the past ten years of leadership contributions and investment, little has been done to advance Allegheny’s reputation and relationships with top performing high schools and students in Allegheny’s regional recruiting footprint. Admissions is the fuel that powers this ship. All of the investment in the world will do little if there are not hoards of high school seniors banging the doors down to get in. President Cole and the college need to invest in Admissions. It needs “world class” leadership, funding, and staffing support (all of which have been absent), in order to advance the college’s reputation, tell the story, and cultivate the relationships necessary to drive healthy student levels. Please direct a fraction of these contributions for this purpose.

  • S

    Scott PhillipsFeb 10, 2024 at 10:57 am

    This is excellent news for our alma mater! Thanks are due to the whole team on this.