The Oxy Campaign For Good checked all the boxes—and the College is already realizing its benefits
Since Raja Bella Hicks ’25 transferred to Occidental as a sophomore, she’s wasted no time immersing herself in the community. She has worked with local high school students as an Upward Bound mentor; she volunteered on the campaign of Los Angeles’ first female mayor, Karen Bass; and she has taught community dance classes to fourth and fifth graders through Oxy Arts.
“It’s been nice to show these kids that dance is something that can grow their confidence,” says Hicks, a diplomacy and world affairs major from Salt Lake City, Utah, who worked with artist-in-residence Yasmine Nasser Diaz as an archivist research fellow last spring on a show titled For the Sake of Dancing in the Street. “That was a fusion of the two things that I love most—diplomacy and world affairs and dance.” After Oxy, she plans to attend law school or pursue a master’s degree in international affairs.
“Occidental has been so welcoming,” adds Hicks, who was selected last spring as one of eight Obama Scholars for the 2023-24 academic year (and interned in the office of the British Consulate-General in Los Angeles last summer). “My ideas feel welcomed, my identity feels welcomed. And the location of Oxy makes it really special.”
Opportunities such as Hicks’ are a testament to the impact of The Oxy Campaign For Good—the largest fundraising initiative in College history. The seven-year campaign, which concluded June 30, outpaced its initial goal by more than $27 million, raising $252.8 million from more than 15,000 individual donors. Through direct support and estate planning, that extraordinary generosity will grow the College’s endowment by more than $150 million—including more than $15 million in unrestricted support—and preserve the Oxy experience for generations to come.
“The energy and enthusiasm generated by the campaign will propel Occidental into the future, positioning us to execute on our vision and remain committed to the College’s mission,” says President Harry J. Elam, Jr. “We’ve had small gifts, large gifts. What matters is that sense that we’ve all come together, that we represent what Oxy can and will be.”
By every measure, the campaign demonstrated the dedication of the Occidental community. Alumni, parents, students, faculty, staff, and friends stepped up to support the cause—demonstrating their resilience even in the face of the pandemic. Two-thirds of all gifts were made by alumni, while past and current Oxy parents contributed $12.5 million to the campaign. Many of those parents designated their gifts toward athletics, with $7.8 million raised to support Oxy’s teams and facilities.
Gift planning was another success story. A pair of Legacy Gift Challenges secured 55 newly documented planned gifts totaling more than $15 million—and another $550,000 was contributed to the Oxy Fund through a matching incentive program, the brainchild of campaign co-chair Gil Kemp P’04.
Financial Aid Endowment
Final total: $97.5 million
“Every year, Occidental loses great students to UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and other UC campuses because their families don’t qualify for most forms of financial aid at Oxy,” says former trustee Louise D. Edgerton ’67 M’69. To increase endowed scholarship funds for middle-income families in California, in 2020 Louise and husband Brad created the Edgerton-Occidental Merit Scholarship Challenge with a $1.6 million campaign gift. Matched by $1.6 million from Oxy, the challenge raised $6 million, creating 10 new endowed scholarships.
Occidental is dedicated to giving promising scholars access to a transformative education by committing to meet 100 percent of a student’s demonstrated financial need. During The Oxy Campaign For Good, the community raised $97 million for access, creating 69 new endowed scholarships and $1.7 million in funding for internships and student research experiences.
One such effort is the Research Early Access Program (REAP), launched in 2021 with a three-year, $247,500 grant from the Sherman Fairchild Foundation. REAP aims to increase the number of academically talented underrepresented and first-generation students pursuing degrees in the sciences by recruiting first-year students and pairing them directly with a faculty mentor for an immersive summer research experience. The College is committed to sourcing philanthropic support to continue this program beyond 2024. “Early hands-on research opportunities give students the chance to participate in science as it is truly practiced,” says Professor of Philosophy Clair Morrissey, who as faculty director of the Undergraduate Research Center is leading the program with Professor of Chemistry Emmanuelle Despagnet-Ayoub.
Other student experiences that benefited from the campaign are Oxy’s signature immersive programs. Bolstered by a lead gift from Bonnie Mills ’81 and a dedicated committee, the Andy Beattie ’75 Endowment for Campaign Semester reached its $500,000 goal. And campaign co-chair Bill Kahane ’70’s continuing support of the William and Elizabeth Kahane United Nations Program—now in its 38th year—will ensure the future of the nation’s only full-time residential internship program at the United Nations at a time when its mission has never been more important.
Final total: $31.6 million
One of Jonathan Veitch’s final construction projects as president was the reimagining of Taylor Pool, completed in 1930, into a multipurpose outdoor space for the Oxy community. Trustee and campaign co-chair Anne Wilson Cannon ’74 provided the lead gift for the construction of Cannon Plaza, which restores the Mediterranean Revival features of Myron Hunt’s original design.
Hunt’s fingerprints were all over the campus during the campaign, including the renovation and redesign of Sycamore Glen, the Fletcher Jones Foundation Computing Classroom in the Academic Commons, and a new percussion studio and Choi Family Music Production Center in Booth Hall.
Occidental’s athletics complex was expanded and enhanced through the campaign. Concurrent with the completion of the De Mandel Aquatics Center in 2020, the newly expanded McKinnon Family Tennis Center and Robinson Family Terrace were realized with the support of campaign co-chair Ian McKinnon ’89 and steering committee member Steve Robinson ’77. Not only did their generosity allow the Tigers to play their matches at home in front of supportive crowds, the new facilities have boosted Oxy’s recruiting efforts. Case in point: Matthew O’Connor ’23, an economics major from Oakton, Va., finished his senior year ranked 13th among all Division III players in the country.
Notably, the completion of the Oxy Arts building on York Boulevard in 2019 expanded the College’s outreach into the Highland Park community. Oxy Arts has presented 12 exhibitions and hosted over 125 events including dance performances, concerts, film screenings, workshops, and the Oxy studio majors senior comps, all open to the public. Support from donors such as Linda and Tod White ’59 and the Kathryn Caine Wanlass Charitable Foundation were instrumental in the construction of the building.
Fundraising priorities coming out of the campaign include the expansion and modernization of Norris Hall of Chemistry, which has raised nearly $14 million to date, as well as future efforts to support Oxy’s burgeoning Music, Media Arts and Culture, and Computer Science departments.
The Oxy Fund
Final total: $37.7 million
The inaugural Day For Oxy, April 20, 2020, was conceived as a largely virtual endeavor to generate community spirit and philanthropic support. After the campus shut down in the wake of COVID-19, the event went fully remote, with a modest goal of raising 420 gifts on Founders Day. Shattering all expectations, the 36-hour marathon brought in 2,594 gifts totaling over $1.6 million. Over the last four years, the annual day of giving has generated more than $6.5 million to support the student experience.
The Oxy Fund’s impact can be felt in every area, from financial aid and academics to student life and athletics. During the height of the pandemic, gifts to the Oxy Fund were instrumental in supporting the shift to online learning; funding technology requests from students and faculty, including laptops, Wi-Fi hotspots, and software needs; and providing daily COVID testing, PPE, and vaccine distribution to the Oxy community.
Over the course of the campaign, gifts to the Oxy Fund totaled $37 million, all of which supports the College’s bottom line. Unrestricted annual gifts provide approximately 4 percent of Oxy’s operational budget.
Day For Oxy has provided a rallying cry to support everything from Oxy athletics to reunion gift challenges to new scholarship endeavors, such as the Nick Lee ’10 Endowed Financial Aid Fund. Lee was a familiar voice to thousands in the Oxy community from his days as a Telefund caller. An economics for business and management major, he raised over $220,000 cold-calling alumni, parents, and past parents on behalf of the College. Lee’s unexpected death in August 2019 prompted his Oxy friends to create an endowed scholarship fund in his memory, with a five-year goal of $100,000 to fully endow it. Thanks to Day For Oxy and a matching gift challenge from the Lee family in 2023, they’re now within $5,000 of that goal.
Endowed Funds for Academics and Student Experience
Final total: $54.9 million
As a student at Occidental, Gary Kaplan ’71 was a member of the search committee that brought Wellington K.K. Chan to campus as a professor of history. Chan taught at Oxy for 39 years, retiring in 2010. And now Kaplan has made a deferred gift to create the Gary Kaplan ’71 Endowed Faculty Research Fund and complete the funding of the Wellington Chan Endowed Chair in Chinese Studies.
All totaled, eight endowed professorships and directorships were established or fully realized during the campaign across a range of disciplines, including Black studies, chemistry, computer science, history, instrumental activities, religious life, and science. It’s the kind of support that attracts top talent and enables compelling teaching and research, all of which contributes to the success of the College’s most valuable commodity.
“There is no one kind of student who is attracted to Oxy and who can thrive here,” observes Wendy Sternberg, vice president for academic affairs and dean of the College. “From the natural sciences to social sciences to the arts and humanities, The Oxy Campaign For Good will shape the academic future—and the student-faculty relationship at the heart of the student experience will be preserved for generations to come.”