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Eastern Kentucky University’s public phase of its comprehensive fundraising campaign launched at a gala at the University Center for the Arts on Friday, Sept. 27 with three new pledges totaling nearly $5 million. 

Entitled “Make No Little Plans-The Campaign for EKU,” the goal was announced as $50 million by EKU Foundation Board Chair, and campaign chair Maribeth Berman. Berman announced that $39 million has already been committed.

“I am passionate about this place. My devotion to this university is and will always be a part of who I am,” said Berman, who along with husband Louis Berman, announced a $4 million planned gift. “Every student who comes to this campus has a chance to change their life, and change the world. We advocate for greater opportunities for students to have this experience.”

ProgramRecognizing donors like the Bermans, who helped the campaign launch with $39 million committed, was vice president of development and alumni engagement Betina Gardner. “We are here tonight to celebrate, no question … to express gratitude to those who have helped to strengthen and fortify EKU so that our students have access to an exceptional education and have a life-changing experience while getting their degree,” Gardner said. “All giving levels are celebrated tonight.”

EKU President Dr. Michael T. Benson announced two other large gifts. Foundation Board member and Hall of Distinguished Alumni member Jeri Isbell pledged $25,000 for a scholarship and made a six-figure bequest, and faculty member Jon McChesney and his wife Shellie gave a $400,000 bequest gift.

“As president, I strongly believe that this campaign is a major step toward building a stronger pathway to Eastern’s long-term growth,” said Benson. “We also know that giving is personal, with many levels and just as many purposes. We know every dollar is precious and impactful.”

The evening also featured stories from students who are receiving an education because of charitable giving.

McKonnen“When you give to the University, you might be helping one student, but really, you’re helping the world,” said Eyouel Mekonnen, who came to the United States from Ethiopia in high school, and has several foundation scholarships that allow him to attend EKU. “My big plan is to the be the Minister of Education in Ethiopia,” the junior English and public relations major said, emphatically. Mekonnen said he wants to empower the children of his home country by providing educational opportunities for all. 

Several donors were inducted into the Ravine Society, which recognizes those who have given $100,000 over their lifetimes. Jan and Jim Barnes, Marcia and the late Jack Luy, Ted Green, Dr. Stuart Tobin, Martha Mullins and Deborah Allison were all honored.  

“I ask each of you to share your passion for this institution with those in your sphere of influence,” Berman said. “Tell your EKU story. Wave your EKU flag. Wear your maroon and help us inspire others to join us in this mission,” Berman said. 

About “Make No Little Plans”

The “Make No Little Plans” campaign is focused on three pillars:

For more information on the “Make No Little Plans” campaign, or to make your donation, click this link: