Spalding sets sights on its next century

Renovation of Spalding University’s Tompkins-Buchanan-Rankin Mansion, the school’s original building, is one of three projects to be funded by the school’s new capital campaign. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

Renovation of Spalding University’s Tompkins-Buchanan-Rankin Mansion, the school’s original building, is one of three projects to be funded by the school’s new capital campaign. (Record Photo by Marnie McAllister)

By Marnie McAllister, Record Editor

Spalding University, which will mark its 100th year in downtown Louisville in 2020, is setting its sights on another century of service with a $30 million campaign.

It’s by far the largest campaign ever attempted by the urban university, known for its career-oriented programs and a schedule that accommodates working students. Many of the Archdiocese of Louisville’s principals and other leaders have sought advanced degrees at Spalding.

The school, founded by the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth, is also among the more diverse post-secondary schools in Kentucky. A quarter of its graduate students are non-white and nearly a third of undergraduate students are non-white, according to the university.

Spalding’s president, Dr. Tori Murden McClure, is a graduate of the school’s Master in Fine Arts in Writing program. She noted that she’s not Catholic, but said the school’s Catholic identity — especially in its commitment to Catholic social teaching — is integral to its mission.

The capital campaign aims to secure all of these attributes for future generations, McClure said.

Remarkably, the university reached two-thirds of its campaign goal before launching it publicly on Nov. 17. The school already has raised $20 million from private donors, foundations and businesses, said Bert Griffin, Spalding’s chief advancement officer.

Many of the donors, so far, are new, Griffin said. “It was their first time looking at the school.”

He and McClure believe Spalding is drastically different from what it once was — even just a decade ago. Previous campaigns struggled to meet goals, the president noted. And sometimes the goal was so paltry, the school aimed to meet basic needs, such as an HVAC system.

Things have changed, Griffin said.

“It’s not the school they remember from 10 or 15 years ago,” he said. “We’re asking people to take a fresh look.”

McClure noted that Spalding has more than doubled its net assets and endowment in the last six years while reducing its debt.

Spalding refuses to use tuition dollars for school improvements, McClure said, noting that it aims to offer a “private education at the cost of a public education.”

The capital campaign will fill the gap in funding. It will fund a handful of projects intended to improve recruitment and enhance both the student experience and the community, McClure said.

The first is seven-and-a-half-acres of sports fields and locker facilities planned near 9th and Kentucky Streets on a former industrial site. Spalding purchased the property two years ago for about $1 million. It will accommodate baseball, soccer and lacrosse teams.

Right now the school uses Collegiate’s fields, but McClure hopes that having home fields will help the school recruit more athletes. Spalding currently competes in the NCAA division III.

The school also plans to convert parking lots at Second and Kentucky streets into green space that can be used by students and the community at large.

Finally, the school hopes to accomplish some renovations on the school’s original building — the historic Tompkins-Buchanan-Rankin Mansion built in 1871. The Sisters of Charity of Nazareth taught the school’s first classes in the building in 1920. Over the years, it has been expanded into a 60,000-plus-square-foot academic center that houses classrooms, offices and the school’s chapel. The chapel hosts Spalding’s weekly Mass.

The capital campaign will only cover part of the much-needed mansion renovations, Griffin said, noting that estimates to completely renovate it — including its historic furniture purchased by the sisters in 1920 — run into the multi-millions. He hopes that alumni of Spalding will see its value and raise enough funds for a full overhaul.

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