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The University of Texas at Tyler Magazine, Fall 2009

Special Section

Community Takes Lead in Raising Funds for Expansion  

Through the Paving the Way fundraising campaign, farsighted locals took the lead in making higher education more accessible in this rural area of East Texas.  

The new University of Texas at Tyler Palestine Campus expansion has been a complete community investment.  From former mayors to business owners and retirees, local residents joined the effort through donations and pledges that surpassed all expectations.

Community leaders believed a state-of-the-art university complex would propel the region into a higher level of economic stability and competitiveness.  And they were willing to back that dream with their own pocketbooks.

“Our first thoughts were only to provide a suitable site and to collect the necessary funds from a handful of local citizens,” Phil Jenkins, a member of the UT Tyler Palestine Development Council, said.  “We later thought that the entire community needed to have an opportunity to buy into the idea of an expanded presence.  Our first goal was $500,000 … we kept raising the goal to keep up with the desires of the community to be financially involved, and boy, did they respond!” 

UT Tyler President Rodney H. Mabry said, “It was truly inspiring to watch the community in Palestine rally around the Paving the Way campaign effort.  It is a relatively small community, by Texas standards, yet they gave more than $2 million to help make it possible for us to expand the UT Tyler Palestine Campus.  Were it not for their generous collective philanthropy, we could not have succeeded.”

Cad Williams, Paving the Way campaign chair, said, “It has been a wonderful response to the campus.  Hundreds of people have gotten involved.”

Nonprofit fundraising consultant Marilyn Abegg helped the group develop a plan of action for Paving the Way through the Texas Area Fund Foundation.  She said 20 to 30 people worked on the campaign at one time, but it was “primarily driven by three men:  Cad Williams, David Barnard and Phil Jenkins.” 

“There was lots of enthusiasm from the community and volunteers,” Abegg said.  “I believe the campaign mirrored the community and their commitment to education.  And they exceeded their goal because of the commitment of the volunteers working on it.”

Abegg said the total raised locally in gifts and pledges was $2,280,096 – all for building the expansion campus.

“It is a community committed to education,’’ Abegg said. “They are paving the way for affordable education for anyone who wants it.’’

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