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Clearly Furman reached new heights in donors, gifts and engagement

Shi Fellow Andres Ospina ’24, left, talks with Sam Blumin, chief of staff at Trueline GVL, about sustainability practices at the venue on July 8, 2024. The Holtzclaw family endowed several Shi fellowships with their gifts. Photo by Nathan Gray, Furman University

Last updated July 10, 2024

By Clinton Colmenares, Director of News and Media Strategy

Philanthropic donations to Furman University topped $70 million in fiscal year 2024 for the third time in the university’s 198-year history, and the Clearly Furman campaign grew to $403 million, within reach of the $426 million goal almost two years before the 2026 conclusion.

Nearly half of the gifts, 48%, are in the form of outright gifts, pledges and planned gifts that go toward the university’s endowment for investment in its third century. Eight percent of campaign gifts are dedicated to capital improvements, including the Timmons Arena renovation. The remaining 44% of the gifts are designated to the university’s annual fund for both unrestricted and restricted use by academic departments and for scholarships, support for The Furman Advantage, athletics and other student-related expenditures.

Several people stand around a large display board during a presentation.

Virginia St. Clair ’27 joins fellow students and faculty members on the stage to present their work from Math and the Mouse MayX during a Clearly Furman event in Orlando, Florida, on May 22, 2024. Photo by Nathan Gray, Furman University

The number of people supporting Furman keeps growing. More than 9,000 donors gave to Furman last year, said Heidi Hansen McCrory, vice president for Development. The number of individual donors to the campaign rose to almost 23,500, which is more than 1,000 donors over the Clearly Furman goal. The broad base of support is significant for donations today and it signifies a healthy pool of donors who will continue to give for many years.

“The level of philanthropy we’ve enjoyed is a reflection of the great work by Furman faculty, students and staff,” McCrory said. “Donating is an act of optimism; it’s a demonstration of support by thousands of donors who are optimistic about Furman’s future.”

The Holtzclaw family, representing eight Furman graduates, made significant donations in honor of father and husband Jim Holtzclaw ’76, who died in 2020. Their gifts provide engaged learning opportunities for students and support for The Furman Advantage. One gift endows several fellowships with the Shi Institute for Sustainable Communities. Another endowment funds MayX Experiences for several students a year.

Jim met Priscilla Wilcox ’74 while they were students at Furman; they married in 1977. Jim went on to earn a doctorate in chemistry and became an environmental chemist. Priscilla went to medical school and became a family and hospice physician. She made the gifts with their children: Bobby Holtzclaw ’04 and his wife Tia Holtzclaw ’04, Molly Griggs ’06 and her husband Kevin Griggs ’04, and Arthur Holtzclaw ’09 and his wife Deb Holtzclaw ’09.

A key donor organization in 2024 was The Duke Endowment, which gave $25 million to support The Furman Advantage in celebration of the philanthropic organization’s centennial.

“We can’t talk about philanthropy at Furman without mentioning what a tremendous partner The Duke Endowment is,” McCrory said. To date, The Duke Endowment has given $77.5 million for The Furman Advantage.

The 10th Annual Dins Day, the 24-hour fundraiser in April which coincides with the last day of class, was another success with 3,628 gifts, a record. The gifts totaled more than $1.75 million and supported 200 funds. The Class of 2027 had the most donors.

The Development team made seven trips across the region, sharing Clearly Furman’s message to alumni, parents and friends at nine events in Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Columbia, Orlando, Tampa and Palm Beach.

These special events not only brought visibility to the campaign, McCrory said, they delivered the heart of Furman. Faculty showcased academic programs and the directors of Furman’s four institutes talked about their areas of impact and relevance to student engagement, reminding supporters of their own unique Paladin experiences. Topics included health sciences, data analytics, communication studies and athletics. The event in Orlando coincided with the Math and the Mouse, a MayX for students to explore ways that mathematics and related disciplines help make Walt Disney World run efficiently.

“It’s like classes without homework,” McCrory said. Engaging with faculty and Furman leaders builds excitement, she said, and excitement inspires philanthropy.

Another Development highlight was dedicating Benefactors Green, a new space near the James B. Duke Library that inspires reflection and commemorates donors who make transformational gifts. Curved pillars, about 8-feet high, list the members of the White Oaks Society, donors who have given at least $1 million. Special markings designate donors who have given $5 million and $10 million.

The space represents the spirit of philanthropy, McCrory said. “When you see the donors’ names, you realize they are alumni or friends of the university and their own Furman stories prompted their gifts. Benefactors Green is a way to honor the people behind the philanthropy, who bring joy through their generosity.”

Benefactors Green was intentionally designed to be easily expanded, McCrory said. “Before too long Furman will be celebrating donors who give $50 million, or $100 million.”

With the 2026 Clearly Furman campaign goals in sight, McCrory said she and others are beginning to plan the campaign celebration, which coincides with the University’s bicentennial in the fall of 2026.

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Clinton Colmenares
Director of News and Media Strategy