Signs of progress are everywhere on the campus of Fulton-Montgomery Community College.
From the window of conference room 106 inside the Student Union, construction workers could be seen on Friday hard at work on a new college bookstore for students. Inside the conference room, school officials were announcing a recent $2 million bequest that will be used to build executive offices and meeting spaces where college dignitaries can entertain donors and high-profile visitors. The new building, said school officials, will be used to enhance existing fundraising efforts that will benefit the school in years to come.
The donation came from Frances Allen, a longtime benefactor of the school and its students. Allen passed away late last year. It is the largest unrestricted gift — meaning the school has total discretion over the funds — ever received by the Foundation of FMCC, the primary vehicle by which private donations are made.
Allen died Dec. 12, 2015, at the age of 96, and lived most of her life in Amsterdam. Del B. Salmon, chairperson of the board of directors of the foundation, said Allen wrote many checks to FMCC over the years for hundreds of scholarship recipients.
“This began a long association and respect for [FMCC], and is the underlying motivation for Frances’ significant bequest to the [college],” Salmon said. “She recognized the important role that our community college plays in Fulton and Montgomery counties and was committed to contributing towards its perpetuity.”
Salmon said the funds will be used to build “Allen House,” which will contain foundation offices as well as the office of the president of FMCC. The building will also be equipped with a board room, meeting space, a full service kitchen and an entertaining space.
“[Allen House] will make the foundation more visible and accessible, allowing us to welcome, entertain, and cultivate visitors, alumni, donors, and supporters, and to step up our fundraising efforts,” said Salmon, who added that the funds will also go toward extensive renovations of the school’s locker room facilities.
When asked how Allen House will benefit students at the school, FMCC President Dr. Dustin Swanger said the idea is to think long-term.
“What it helps us do is it positions us I think for stronger fundraising for the future,” said Swanger. “And that is a critical function now for public institutions and community colleges.”
He added that community colleges are fairly new, in the higher education firmament, at needing to generate private support through fundraising, and that the new facility will assist them in this endeavor.
“Harvard [University], Union [College], they’ve been doing it for a long time and they have billions of dollars in their endowments,” said Swanger. “You give Harvard a million dollars, they say, ‘Thank you very much.’ You give Fulton-Montgomery a million dollars, it changes something on campus.”
Swanger said the next step is to submit their slate of 2017 capital projects to Fulton and Montgomery counties, apply for matching funds from the state, and hopefully begin construction next summer. The county approvals and state funding match are, “ifs, as always,” he said, “but I feel good about it.”
FMCC spokesperson Amy Radik said that while Allen House’s construction is contingent on the school securing matching state funds, school officials are confident the state will come through.
“We’re 99 percent sure that we’ll be getting the matching funds,” said Radik, who noted that Allen House’s augmentation of the school’s fundraising efforts will be considered during the approval process. “It’s pretty much the norm as long as you have a capital project that’s approved by the state.”
Swanger said for capital projects on community college campuses in New York State, the law requires a 50/50 match between local resources — such as county funds or a donation — and state funds.
He also said the new facility will enable FMCC to entertain high-profile guests and politicians in a setting more befitting their position.
“It’s not just fundraising,” he said. “Over the years we’ve had several dignitaries on campus … this is really going to be a great space for the governor, the lieutenant governor, senators, whoever is on campus to give a presentation to the college and the community in a higher-end space than we’ve been able to offer to date.”
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