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10 Questions With 2019 Class Gift Director Tom Beeby

Since 1861, Penn State seniors have been giving back to the university through carefully selected class gifts every year. It’s a tradition for the graduating class to supply the university with a gift that will carry on their legacy at Penn State for years to come.

The campaign itself is headed every year by one lucky Penn State student who’s selected as executive director and dozens of other volunteers. This year, Tom Beeby will serve as the 2019 Class Gift Executive director, so we sat down to talk with him about his vision for the upcoming class gift.

Onward State: Why did you get involved with the Class Gift Committee?

Tom Beeby: One of my freshman year mentors from UPUA, Jorge Zurita-Coronado, was the Director of Communications for the 2017 Class Gift Campaign. Through him, I heard of the Class Gift Campaign and was intrigued by the opportunity to be a part of something that has been so important to Penn State’s history. He put me in contact with Lauren Nelson, 2018 Class Gift Executive Director, and I then joined and become a member of the Fundraising team last year. I fell in love with the organization immediately and saw great potential for the Class Gift Campaign.

OS: What made you apply for Executive Director?

TB: Being a volunteer for Fundraising last year was a really rewarding experience, and it also showed me some things that I thought that we could do differently to become a more effective and efficient organization. I knew there were things I thought I could fix, but it came during the process of becoming a Lion Ambassador where I solidified that I was going to apply for Executive Director. During the process of becoming a Lion Ambassador, I had to study over 40 significant Class Gifts. Though I had known that Class Gift was important to the history of Penn State, I hadn’t previously realized the scope to which Class Gift is in our day-to-day lives. From the 1916 Allen Street Gates to the 1940 Lion Shrine, to the 2016 CAPS Endowment, and to everything before, in between, and in the future, the Class Gift Campaign is everywhere in our daily life as a Penn Stater. The potential for the Class Gift Campaign is limitless, and I am honored to be a part of the almost 160-year tradition of student philanthropy.

OS: What is your vision for the 2019 Class Gift Committee?

TB: Historically, the structure of the Class Gift Campaign has been very “top-heavy” — meaning that the Executive Committee does a lot of the work and there are typically few volunteers. However, I view the 2019 Campaign as a transition year of getting more volunteers engaged. The Executive Committee of every fundraising campaign is important, but the other volunteers are what actually bring the campaign to life. With over 45,000 undergraduates, there is no way that the five students on the Executive Committee can reach a significant portion of the student population. Fundraising is an ever-changing science, and the more people we have on board, the more effectively we can reach more students and tailor a message that will make them consider Starting Their Legacy here at Penn State.

OS: What changes or improvements are you hoping to make in your new position?

TB: As mentioned before, a top priority of our Committee is to really engage more volunteers. I would love to get people from each academic college student council on board to support the campaign by connecting us with more volunteers, getting us in contact with students, and with fundraising from members of that college. Not only do we want more volunteers in general, but more specifically, we want more people from the freshman/sophomore/junior years. Successful organizations set up pipelines where students can progress through different levels of the organization before becoming a member of the Executive Committee, and I think this could help the Campaign be more successful.

Next, we have to continuously adjust our fundraising strategies. Fundraising is always changing, and we have to get creative in our ideas on how to encourage people to give. It is never easy to donate in college when you are on a strict budget, so we have to work around that.

Lastly, we are really revamping the Class Gift Campaign social media thanks to Jack Davenport, our Director of Communications. Social media is a crucial part of most college students’ lives, so I think our revised communications strategies will be more helpful in spreading the mission of the Campaign, and getting more people involved. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter and Instagram for the latest on the Class Gift Campaign.

OS: How can other members of the Penn State community get involved with the Class Gift Committee?

TB: If anyone is even the slightest bit interested, please email me or the respective director for which you are interested in volunteering under. This is as much of a time commitment as you want it to be; even members of the executive committee are super involved with other organizations and still make it work. This is a great opportunity to be a part of something that will affect generations of Penn Staters.

OS: What was your initial reaction when you found out you had been named Executive Director?

TB: It was one of those moments where it really felt like it was too good to be true. Most people that know me, know that I always have something to say — but at that moment I was speechless. I am humbled, but also incredibly excited, to serve as the Executive Director of the Class Gift Campaign. Hopefully , we can make this the best year yet.

OS: What was your first official act as Executive Director?

TB: My first official act was to appoint Anna Thoet as Director of Fundraising.

OS: What has been the most rewarding part of being involved with the committee?

TB: Just knowing that you are actively taking part in something that will help other Penn Staters for several generations really drives me. The Student Farm and Textbook and Educational Resource Fund will quite literally help thousands of students. The HUB Alma Mater display will be another symbol of the everlasting pride of this University that keeps students going. The Class Gift Campaign’s proven record of leaving impactful gifts on the University is incredibly powerful, and knowing I will be contributing to the betterment of other students is incredibly rewarding.

OS: Are you involved in anything outside of the Class Gift Committee?

TB: Yes! I serve as the Content Director for State of State 2019, a Lion Ambassador, and a member of the Presidential Leadership Academy.

OS: Finally, as is Onward State’s tradition, if you were a dinosaur, which one would you be and why?

TB: I took a Buzzfeed test and it told me that I am a Parasaurolophus. When I was a young kid, I went through a phase where I knew everything about dinosaurs and even made new names for some of the ones I couldn’t pronounce. For example, I called the Parasaurolophus a “Higgo.” I have absolutely no clue how I came up with that, or why.

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About the Author

Emma Dieter

Emma is a junior from the ever popular "right-outside" Philly area studying labor employment relations and PR. She's also the Assistant Social Media editor for Onward State. She has been a Penn Stater from cradle and will continue to bleed blue and white, 'til grave. She loves trashy romance novels, watching Netflix, and crying over cute videos of dogs. If you ever want to talk more with her about how great she is, or simply have other inquiries, feel free to email her at [email protected]

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