Chapter XII: The Special Gifts Phase

To return to the Special Gifts dinner at the Sagamore in the fall of 1947: Rochester had worked out a formula for citywide capital fund drives. Accepted procedure had the Special Gifts Committee operating several weeks before the general public phase of the campaign.

The Red Cross, the Y.M.C.A., Community Chest, and other campaigns used the pledge card system. Campaign volunteer workers were generally assigned cards for a personal canvass of prospective givers.

The amounts expected from the major givers were usually suggested by the Chairman of the Special Gifts. We had the stalwart Otto Shults do this. When Emmet Finucane recommended Otto for the role, he declared that no one in Monroe County knew the financial potentials of firms and individuals as did Otto. Emmet was right.

Since I was responsible for total gifts of one-half million dollars from business and industry, Otto and I decided I should personally work the cards of the large givers. The experience gleaned in the Stadium Campaign three years earlier was in our favor.

There was no secret list to consult. All one had to do was to read the donation lists published in the press to the Community Chest and to other campaigns. Eastman Kodak Company always topped all other firms. Scaled to the Kodak gift would come (not in this order) the banks, the breweries, the garment industry, Bausch and Lomb, Gleason, and others. Tax structures were different in the late 1940's. The number of private or family foundations was almost zero compared with the 1960's and '70s. There was scarcely any "foundation" money around.

I sensed the need of a precise presentation to Thomas J. Hargrave (known to his friends as "Jean"), the President of Eastman Kodak Company. I personally would present to him the Kodak pledge card. To bolster my confidence and knowledge of the considerations that move a business or industry to contribute to a new college campaign, I went to Syracuse to talk with the laymen who had been active for the Jesuits in the campaign for LeMoyne College.

I remember the conversation in the office of the president of the Easy Washer Company, a rather important industry in Syracuse and a generous donor to LeMoyne. The president had been the chairman of the Special Gifts Section of the campaign for LeMoyne. Our dialogue: "What was the one thing that you used to line up and construct your appeal to the businesses and industry of the Syracuse area?" He answered, "We sold Jesuit education, Jesuit education, nothing but Jesuit education."

A certain modesty prevented me from simply substituting Basilian education. I settled upon the following as the chief grounds for the appeal to Kodak: St. John Fisher College would produce intellectual, literate chemists, physicists, scientists, men of business and the professions for the entire Rochester area. Eastman Kodak Company would be a beneficiary of this. The sons of Kodak employees would have another first-class college to attend in their own city. "For the community, for the people of Rochester" would be our motif. I had a preliminary talk with Jean Hargrave and he told me that he would need a formal brief outlining the reasons why Kodak should contribute to the campaign and also the amount that would be expected. Somewhere in the archives of the campaign should be a copy of the brief which I presented to Jean Hargrave, who, in turn, presented it to his board.

The brief must have had some worth because after the campaign when I visited Cardinal Spellman in New York to thank him for his wonderful gift, he asked me if I could send him a copy of the brief we presented to the Kodak Company. I sent him one. I never did hear to what use, if any, he put this document.

The visit to Eastman Kodak is still bright in my memory. I took the elevator to one of the higher floors of the Kodak Tower and went to Mr. Hargrave's office. A kind, very professional receptionist was seated just within his office door.

Some twenty or thirty feet of rather plush carpet intervened between her desk at the door and the desk of Mr. Hargrave. It was with some trepidation that I walked that interval. We got right to the business at hand. I pulled the pledge card from my inside pocket, presented it to him to sign and fill in the amount of the Kodak gift to the campaign. He said he had been authorized by the board to contribute to the campaign.

He explained that on the basis of the number of counties involved in our campaign appeal, and studies by the Kodak officials as to a formula for giving, they had settled on a figure of $50,000. I was immensely pleased to hear this. Then I thought that if it were just a little more that I would feel more comfortable in approaching other firms, because their gifts would be prorated to the Kodak gift.

In a moment of great boldness, and with a bit of a smile, I said, "Jean, it's going to be awfully hard for us to swing the campaign if Kodak will give us only $50,000. Could you possibly make it $60,000?" Jean said, "All right, we will." This two-line dialogue, his one statement and my own statement, was worth $10,000. I gave my pen to Mr. Hargrave to sign the pledge card.

He pulled out a stamp from the drawer alongside, stamped the pledge card, and signed his name to it. In two days the check arrived at our St. John Fisher office for $60,000. The Special Gifts groups in these campaigns are encouraged and motivated by the success of individual workers. It happened that we had a meeting of the Special Gifts Committee in the Hotel Seneca the day after the Kodak check arrived.

With great pleasure, I announced the signed pledge card and showed the check from Eastman Kodak Company for $60,000, no strings attached, except one. Under no conditions was the amount of the gifts to be published in the newspapers. I did extract from Jean Hargrave permission to show it and describe it at the Special Gifts Committee meeting. He agreed that this would be all right, and wished us great success.

The impetus which this one large gift gave to the campaign was considerable. All our workers could canvass their cards and tell the prospective donors that we had the Kodak check for $60,000 already in the bank. It worked like magic. In a few days, I had canvassed pledge cards personally which amounted to $300,000.

The breweries with Louis Wehle in charge of their canvass were most generous, as were the banks with Emmet Finucane representing the clearing house. Fred Tobin of the Tobin Packing Company was another generous giver. We did not publish the amounts of the pledges to the campaign.

When doing a "first," there are few guidelines to follow. You settle on a major financial goal for your campaign. Ours would be $1,047,236. The million was to be a minimum amount for a site and first building.

Why the added $47,236? To show that a fine accounting had gone into the plans for the plant and to offset the estimated expenses of the campaign we would have to pay for the meals of some 2000 workers on about three occasions. This was the accepted formula in Rochester at the time. I figured about $30,000 would be needed for this item. The actual cost of all meals was around $27,000.

I vetoed the purchase of bumper stickers, posters, show cards, lapel buttons, and other similar promotions. The Gannett newspapers and the Catholic Courier carried, as news, everything we sent them. The spirit and effort of the campaigners were ours to initiate and develop at the few gatherings of workers and leaders.

There were few meetings. We had planned a "Blitz" campaign. The public segment of it would run for 10 days only, February 12 through February 21, 1948. Pledges would extend for one year only, although other campaigns had a three-year payment plan. The mechanics of collection and auditing would thereby be reduced for us.

Several things happened prior to, or concurrent with, our fund raising, which we did not foresee. Bishop Kearney declared in his eulogy at the funeral of Father Leonard Dolan, spiritual director of the Basilian Novitiate and the first Basilian to die in Rochester, "One of the last things he did was to pray for the success of the project so close to his community: the foundation of St. John Fisher College."

Later in a Special Campaign Issue distributed in all the parishes in early February, the Bishop wrote:

My dear people, 1948 marks my fortieth year in the service of God. We commit to your generosity the most important project we have undertaken as Bishop of this See, the beginning of St. John Fisher College for Men. So during this month of our Lady of Lourdes (Feast, February 11), we commit this work to her kind assistance, placing the hope of success in her hands as we ask her motherly intercession."

These Marian lines penned by Bishop Kearney for his people blended well with the new seal of the college. I had selected an heraldic device, MR (Maria Regina), to appear in the tripanel surmounting the shield to represent the faith of the Basilian Fathers of Rochester in Mary. I repeated the MR in another panel to denote Bishop Kearney's Marian device in his own arms. When the panel was designed some months previously, I had no idea that these happy coincidences would transpire. That they did so is evidence of the fervent faith of all the leaders, workers, givers. I had coined the slogan, "Every Giver a Founder." So much ardent prayer, noble purpose, and generous sacrifice surrounded the campaign that a switch on the slogan could well read "Every Founder a Pray-er."

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