Geneseo has launched its most ambitious fundraising campaign for future generations.

By Kris Dreessen

During his four years at Geneseo, Kevin Gavagan ’75 met his wife Nancy ’76 and many of his closest friends. He took courses that prepared him for his career. He also skipped a class one day—and was soon spotted by the professor elsewhere on campus. The faculty member said nothing at the time but made a point to talk with Gavagan later.

“It was a tough love reminder that even as a 19- or 20-year-old kid, I had responsibilities,” remembers Gavagan. “I never missed that class again.”

The personalized mentoring and genuine interest faculty show in students is one reason Gavagan cherishes his Geneseo experience. But he has witnessed more than that throughout the more than 30 years he has served on the Geneseo Foundation Board and the School of Business Advisory Council. All the Geneseo people Gavagan has met—professors and leaders, students and alumni—have impressed on him what an unusual place the College is. “It’s striking to me that I was a student there for four years, but like many alumni, the friendships and connections I made and continue to make really last a lifetime,” he says.

Gavagan recently helped Geneseo launch the $45 million Opportunities Rising: Geneseo for Generations comprehensive campaign to make certain that extraordinary, innovative experiences are accessible to all future Geneseo students.

The Geneseo Foundation and alums like Gavagan, who is chairing the campaign, have worked during the past several years to build momentum and secure nearly $33 million before publicly announcing the campaign effort this past October, an amount that totals 73 percent of the goal.

“This campaign reflects our collective commitment to ensure Geneseo’s legacy thrives for decades to come,” says President Denise A. Battles. “The primary focus is to secure funds for additional scholarships, to enhance hands-on learning experiences for students exploring career opportunities, and to connect our students with our talented alumni network as they prepare for life after Geneseo.”

Raising 73 percent of the goal “speaks volumes” about alumni and community support and Geneseo’s ability to reach the overall goal, says Battles.

Opportunities Rising focuses on three pillars, which support Geneseo’s strategic plan to provide an honors college experience for all students:

  • Elevate access: Remove the financial and institutional barriers to a Geneseo education by increasing scholarships, supporting remote learning, and investing in transfer students.
  • Create experiences: Give students the resources to seek out the unknown and prepare them for rewarding careers through unique opportunities, such as undergraduate research, study abroad, and co-curricular learning experiences.
  • Demonstrate impact: Work toward innovations that impact the world and create solutions that preserve and sustain communities through student and faculty research, academic excellence, and a newly renovated Milne Library.

“We are at a pivotal moment in the college’s history. This campaign is essential to make certain the success of our students and the realization of our vision,” says Ellen Leverich ’90, Geneseo Foundation Board executive director and  vice president for college advancement.

The campaign, says Battles, “will help us provide an exemplary Geneseo experience for every one of our students and ensure that financial limitations aren’t a barrier to their attendance and full participation.”

For example, says Battles, campaign support will improve learning environments and programs, such as the entirely renovated Milne Library, slated to open in 2024–25. It will bolster co-curricular experiences such as student organizations, integrative and applied learning, and student-athlete activities. It will also provide hands-on, real-world learning opportunities such as undergraduate research, internships, and study abroad. Additional scholarships can make the difference in whether a student participates in or even attends Geneseo.

Looking back, says Bob Walley ’83, “I was one of those students who needed that access.” Walley is a principal at Deloitte & Touche LLC in New York with a successful 40-year career in the financial services industry, but he did not have the financial means when he arrived at Geneseo and had to work his way through college. He gave campus tours and stuffed envelopes for the Office of Admissions, spent his summers working construction, and pulled late shifts at The Vital Spot bar to help pay for his degree. “Geneseo,” he says, “allowed me to come in, to find myself, and to thrive.”

To give back, Walley serves on the School of Business Advisory Council and chairs the Geneseo Foundation Board. He has returned to campus to lead workshops and speak with business students, contributed to scholarships, helped establish the Edward Pettinella ’73 Trading Room, and supported the new data analytics program in the School of Business.

Walley thinks about aspiring lawyer Alexander Ruiz ’24, a political science major who came to Geneseo from the South Bronx and will be the first in his family to earn a college degree. As SUNY Student Assembly president, Ruiz advocates for hundreds of thousands of students across all 64 SUNY campuses.

“Our students have a desire, a work ethic, and they come hungry and inquisitive,” says Walley. “If we can get funds for the next generation of Alexes, we can open doors for more incredible future leaders in our communities. It’s important for us, the Geneseo alumni and community, to pay it forward and provide the necessary resources to prepare students for successful careers after Geneseo. By doing so, we will continue the cycle of giving back—and help instill the culture of philanthropy in the future alumni.”

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