Colby lights up the Empire State Building

The College continued celebrations surrounding the October launch of “Dare Northward,” a historical, $750 million comprehensive campaign, in New York City on Dec. 5. The celebration mirrored the size of the campaign goal, revolving around the lighting of the Empire State Building in Colby blue. Like many of the College’s recent efforts, the celebration was unprecedented in college fundraising.

Vice President for College Advancement Dan Lugo said in an interview with the Echo that this celebration seemed apt because “[the administration] thinks that this is a really important moment for Colby to be proclaimed on the world stage for the global leadership that we have and for the impact of what we do in higher education.”

Since the Waterville launch event, Lugo said the College’s fundraising continues to advance. At the time of the Waterville launch, the campaign had raised $383 million in its quiet phase. Just over a month later, it stands at above $388 million.

Lugo said that the campaign’s ability to have a one-year quiet phase and raise such a large amount is “atypical” and that “no other college in America has ever done that.”

Despite the success of the early campaign, the advancement team anticipates that there will need to be several more “major gifts” to the College in order to fulfill the fundraising goal within the intended seven year time frame. The Colby Fund generally  raises $8 million to $10 million a year, which on its own would fall short of the goal of $750 million within seven years.

While many members of the advancement team and the administration were in New York for the recent launch event, students and faculty members on the Hill were able to livestream the event via the Dare Northward website. Additionally, several Colby alumni clubs, including those in Washington D.C. and Boston, had holiday parties at the time of the launch celebration.

Future launch celebrations will take place in Washington D.C. in April, San Francisco next fall, and Boston next winter.

The Empire State Building’s white lights gradually turned on beginning at 4:30 p.m. due to Federal Aviation Administration guidelines, and at 6:30 p.m. the top lights turned Colby blue.

Lugo referred to the symbolism behind this event as being “in tandem” with the celebrations on Mayflower Hill and in Waterville in October, when Miller Library’s tower was lit up for the Oct. 19 launch.

Just as Miller is representative of the larger Colby experience for many community members, the Dare Northward website reads, “The Empire State Building is an icon of New York. It was built in a daring fashion, northward toward the sky, and reigned for decades as the world’s tallest building. It was built in record time—a testament to what can happen when a community dares to prove what’s possible.” Clearly, the College views the $750 million fundraising goal as similarly daring,  making the enormity of the launch celebrations fitting.

The Empire State Building event is happening with no marketing expense to Colby, according to Lugo. The event was organized through a connection with Vice Chair of the Board of Trustees Leslie Dougherty Biddle, who also has a trustee relationship with the Empire State Building board. 

Despite there being no cost associated with the lighting of the Empire State Building, some community members have expressed confusion at the extravagance of the launch celebrations. The launch in Waterville was characterized by an excess of food, drink and entertainment, the cost of which some students speculated might have been better allocated towards Financial Aid or another important campus resource.

Lugo, however, defended the events, noting that the College was following successful fundraising strategies demonstrated by other colleges. Due to the enormity of the fundraising goal, it is important to “create the energy to tell people that this is a big deal,” according to Lugo.

“Telling the donor community that Colby is a place of big ideas and big aspirations and is a great conduit and steward for their philanthropy…you can’t say that quietly,” Lugo said.