Harpers' Gift Gives Alumni Center New Name

Harpers When Leslie Harper '55 (business administration) was part of the first graduating class at Sacramento State's J Street location, he probably never expected to have a building on campus named after him. But to those who know Harper and his wife, Anita, it its utterly fitting that the Alumni Center now bears the name "Leslie and Anita Harper Alumni Center."

"They are two of the most genuine, caring people. Their hearts are part of Sacramento State, says Margot Shinnamon Bach '72 (communication studies), co-chair of the recently completed Alumni Campaign.

"They love students and want what's best for them. Every year they've stepped up with their support. And because of their generosity, their presence will be felt into perpetuity.

Why wouldn't it be right to name the Alumni Center for them?"

The Harpers' gift, the result of a significant bequest commitment, caps off a first-of-its-kind campaign for the Sacramento State Alumni Association, which raised nearly $4 million for scholarships and programming. In addition to boosting its offerings for alumni and current students, the campaign had the bonus result of significantly strengthening alumni engagement.

"The campaign was an effort to make the Alumni Association more robust in its programming and more appealing to alumni," Bach says. "We were looking for ways to get alumni to be more connected and more engaged—locally or wherever they live."

Working with University Development, a core committee of volunteers including Bach, John Barney '85, Larry Cook '65, Chris Higdon'85, Penny Kastanis '57, MA '59, MA '61, Scott Maxwell '85, Alice Perez '99, Holly Tiche '89 and Tina Treis '80 worked with the Alumni Association Board of Directors to get the campaign off the ground. There was also a concerted effort to build a bridge between the boards of the Alumni Association and The University Foundation at Sacramento State by highlighting their shared goal to support students and programs at Sacramento State.

The impact of the campaign was multi-fold:

A thriving Student Alumni Association is now building a culture of alumni engagement with current students. It even sponsored its own fundraiser for student scholarships—the inaugural Glow for Good dance marathon—raising $16,000 for the Student Emergency Fund, which helps students who run into difficulties while pursuing their degrees.

A host of new mentoring and networking opportunities have sprouted including Dinner with 12 Hornets, the Mocktail Party, Hornet Alum-inaries Up Close and Sac State Day @ events, as well as mixers in the Sacramento region and other locations Hornets gather.

The Alumni Association saw its membership increase by more than 44 percent.

Other chapters—such as the Criminal Justice, Hornets Policy and Politics, English, Foreign Languages and Black Alumni chapters—stepped up their social and networking opportunities to provide support for chapter-based scholarships.

"When I first got involved with the chapter and heard about the scholarships, I got quite excited and thought it sounded like something I'd really like to do," says Clay Wilson '93 (Psychology), who serves on the Black Alumni Chapter scholarship committee.

The dentist for the California Correctional Center in Susanville travels 230 miles to make chapter meetings.

"It's important to me. I made a commitment to myself to try to give some money to the scholarship every time we have a meeting," he says. "I want to keep the ball rolling to give kids a chance, to offer them the opportunity to be a student and not have to work if they don't have to. We don't want them making sacrifices to buy a book."

Support for scholarships was a cornerstone of the Alumni Campaign and the Alumni Association Scholarship Program has flourished as a result. The Association was able to increase the amount of the more than a dozen scholarships it awards each year from $500 to $2,000 per year.

In fact, the Alumni Center's new namesakes, Les and Anita Harper, are longtime supporters of the Alumni Scholarship program and their contributions were key to pushing the campaign across the goal line.

"They agreed to step up and say, 'This is important,'" Bach says. "They see the value in supporting the future of Sacramento State students and they 'walked that talk.'"

You, too, can make a difference in a student's life by funding a scholarship through your estate. To learn more, contact Lora L. Hollingsworth at (916) 278-6115 or lora.hollingsworth@csus.edu.