During our last capital campaign 2002-07, I had the privilege of serving as its co-chair. I found myself reflecting on that campaign over the past couple months. Those reflections prompted me to write this letter, which is similar to one I wrote during the last campaign. 

Let’s fast forward 15 years. Some things have changed and some things have remained the same. North Carolina A&T State University is now universally recognized as the largest and best public HBCU in the nation. It’s still transforming the lives of students, alumni and their families and its impact and footprint are greater than they’ve ever been locally, nationally and globally. We are bigger, better and more significant than ever before and our needs are greater than ever before. 

After having served as a member and chair of the Board of Trustees and as a member and chair of the Executive Advisory Council for the College of Business and Economics and now serving as co-chair of the capital campaign for the second time, I now understand those needs much better than I did 15 years ago. I also understand the need for alumni support is greater than at any other time in our illustrious 128-year history. 

We are in the last year of our current capital campaign, The Power of Do, and the revised goal of the current campaign is more than $100 million by Dec. 31, 2020. We stand at $89 million versus our original goal of $85 million. 

I have heard alumni ask, “If we have surpassed the original $85 million goal, does the university still need my support?” The simple answer is YES WE DO! 

When we undertook the study back in 2011 to determine what the campaign goal would be, we settled on $85 million because, based on our history, that amount seemed most feasible. 

Back in 2012, the actual needs identified were $263 million. The needs have not diminished; in fact, I am sure they have increased over an eight-year period. 

As campaign co-chairs, Royall Mack and I are committed to ensuring over the next 11 months that all AGGIES are made aware of the needs of the university, how funds are being used and why your support is critical to our future success. Through a series of letters, we will provide you with the knowledge and the facts regarding our alma mater. Consider this the first chapter.

Chapter 1 

We are a state-assisted institution as a member of the University of North Carolina System, rather than a fully state-supported university. That means state funds do not support and cannot be used for the band, athletics, most academic scholarships, endowments, professorships, student competitions, study abroad, grass on the football field or stadium upgrades, just to name a few of our needs. These endeavors must be supported by alumni, friends, corporations, foundations and student fees. 

The first question asked by corporations, foundations and friends when they are approached to make a donation to A&T is, “What are alumni doing?” Today we have a good answer to that question. By the end of this year, let’s have a great answer to the question to the tune of more than $100 million for the Power of Do campaign. 

I also often hear from alumni the reason they have never given to the university is “no one has ever asked me to give,” – the same answer I would receive 15 years ago. We need your help, so I am asking unapologetically, unequivocally and very clearly for your support, both annually and to this capital campaign, for our alma mater. 

The question that usually follows is, “I thought we were state-supported?” We are state-assisted, same as we were 15 years ago.  Hopefully we all now understand the difference between the two. 

As I stated previously, each letter in this series over the next 11 months will be aimed at arming you with the facts, knowledge and information to receive and or increase your support and to gain the support of other alumni to this worthy cause. 

Five facts

  1. In 1969, student enrollment was 3,900 and the state appropriation was $3 million and 79% of the total budget. In 2009, student enrollment was 10,600 and the state appropriation was $105 million and 70% of the total budget. In 2019, the student enrollment was 12,556 (largest HBCU in the country) and the state appropriation was $94 million and 55% of the total budget. Make no mistake, we are state-assisted.  Over the last 11 years, the student population has increased 16% while state appropriations have decreased by 11%.
  2. Student fees, alumni and friends, corporation and foundation funds must be used to support the band, athletics, most academic scholarships, endowments, student programs, study abroad, student competitions and many other activities that make our students more competitive.
  3. 9% of our alumni give on an annual basis and 22% have participated in this capital campaign to date.
  4. 87% of A&T students received some form of financial aid for 2019-20. This number will change as students are still receiving awards and summer school enrollment.
  5. Last year, A&T won half of the 17 MEAC championships available. We just won the Celebration Bowl for the fourth time in five years. We are fast becoming known as Championship U.

We all love a winner! But let me share some more facts you may not know: 

It costs $1,700 to outfit from head to toe one football player you see on the field. That includes the uniform and the helmet. A helmet costs between $300 and $400 alone. 

A football scholarship for an in-state player is $15,000. For an out-of-state player, it’s more than $30,000

None of these costs is covered by state funds.

Turn the corner

The product of any great university is students who are world-class competitive and job- or graduate school-ready from the day of their undergraduate convocation. Your support is needed to ensure we remain competitive today. As the largest and best HBCU, we absolutely must lead and build a future that ensures our success in perpetuity.

If you’re not already giving, please make a donation to the Power of Do capital campaign. If you are giving, I’m asking you to do more to ensure we exceed our revised goal of more than $100 million by Dec. 31, 2020. Your help is greatly needed and appreciated.

Let’s make 2020 the year we turn the corner on giving back to A&T. The year we move beyond thinking about “me and my four.” The year that we think more broadly and act more expansively in a way that ensures the security and advancement of our university and our people.

Willie A. Deese ‘77
Wake up everybody,  No more sleeping in bed,  No more backward thinking, Time for thinking ahead.
“Wake Up Everybody” – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes