NMU alumni are the largest private supporter by giving funds for various outlets

Meredith Gasco

NMU students might not be known for their school pride, but perhaps our population has more school spirit than people realize.

According to the NMU Foundation, 57 percent of private donations to the university come from alumni.

Vincent Grout, the director of development communications for the NMU Foundation, said that not all donations are monetary. The nursing simulation lab, the pediatric simulation lab and the FCC license for NMU’s WiMAX network were all made possible by the efforts of alumni. Some alumni also provide mentoring and internship opportunities for students, Grout said.

“We’re always looking at the total student experience,” he said.

Money from financial contributions by alumni goes to everything from scholarships and financial aid to study abroad opportunities for students and equipment and supplies, according to Carol Carr, the director of annual giving for the NMU Foundation. Carr said that iconic features of NMU, like the DeVos Museum and the Reynolds Recital Hall, wouldn’t be possible without private support from NMU alumni.

“The actual structure of our university would be different if it weren’t for (alumni donations),” Carr said.

But, Carr said, many students don’t realize the impact that alumni donations have on their NMU experiences. To help raise awareness, the NMU Foundation contacted Promotional Services on campus last year to design an ad campaign, Carr said.

Jordan Buzzy, a senior photography and sociology major, worked on the campaign for the NMU Foundation as a freelance photographer. Buzzy said the “I’m Here Because Of You” poster campaign was eventually created to help familiarize students with the NMU Foundation by showing actual students who had received money from the foundation, studied abroad with university funds, or had worked in labs funded by alumni donations.

The poster campaign was such a success that the NMU Foundation and Promotional Services collaborated last semester on the Couch Show, an interactive photography project about students’ experiences at NMU.

“The idea was to keep that consciousness in students’ minds that ‘Hey, I do like Northern,’” Buzzy said. “(Alumni donations) help some students even have an experience, let alone a good experience (at NMU).”

That appreciation for the NMU experience can motivate alumni to make an education at NMU possible for other students. Dennis Stromberg, a 1975 graduate of NMU, said he has donated to the university regularly for over 10 years.

“Education is one of the things I feel very strongly about,” Stromberg said.

With state budget cuts and rising tuition at universities, private donations are important for preserving financial aid for students and funding for the arts, he said.

Stromberg said he sets aside a portion of his yearly budget for a gift to NMU. This year he plans to donate a total of $3000 to the university, he said.

When he attended NMU, Stromberg said he was impressed by the close connections between faculty and students, the quality of the education and the friendly atmosphere.

“We still have connections to the university,” Stromberg said.

He, his wife Cheryl, and their daughter Kari are all NMU alumni. With his personal connections to NMU and his support for higher education, Stromberg said he enjoys giving back.

“I just feel that (higher education) is the future of our country,” he said.

Vincent Grout and Carol Carr said that gifts from alumni like Stromberg are important, but every contribution is greatly appreciated.

“Our average gift can be around $70,” Carr said. “People need to know that they don’t need to be millionaires to have an impact.”