Salvatore J. LaPilusa ‘41 came to South Bend from Bayonne, New Jersey, as a freshman in the fall of 1937. It was his first time away from home. His father, a bricklayer, had come to America in 1912; his mother, a seamstress, had come in 1914. Young Sal traveled alone by train to the Midwestern city, then took the trolley up the hill from downtown. “Seeing the dome,” he recalls, “made my heart pound faster.” He checked into freshman hall, roomed with a kid from Denver in a hothouse little cubicle with steel bunks and no chairs. Sal wanted to be a doctor. The tuition that year, he figured, was $25 per week — his father’s weekly pay. His two older sisters worked to help get Sal through school.
Sal worked, too, for the physics department, then waiting tables in the dining hall where students were served at their tables. He remembers that the schoolwork was hard, that he attended chapel every morning and had evening prayers each day, that students sang songs at dinner, that he made trips to the Grotto and studied hard and made good friends, and that “the camaraderie, the friendships, the Catholic education is what made Notre Dame special.” His parents listened to the football games on the radio, hoping to hear Sal’s voice in the crowd.
Sal also remembers meeting a guy named Harry John in sociology class senior year. It was spring and Sal didn’t have the $25 train fare to get home for break. Harry John invited Sal to come home with him to Milwaukee and so Sal went along. On the trip they stopped for lunch and Harry suggested they get some beer. Sal ordered a Budweiser and Harry said, “Why not have a Miller?” Sal had never heard of Miller beer but tried one anyway — and then found out that Harry’s family owned the Miller Brewing Company. Another thing Sal liked about Notre Dame was that two guys from such different backgrounds could become friends, without those backgrounds being apparent on campus.
Sal graduated that spring of ’41, went to medical school at Loyola in Chicago, served in Korea with the U.S. military and spent most of his life as an orthopedic surgeon in his hometown of Bayonne. Things changed for Sal in 1989 when his wife, Lorraine McNally LaPilusa, died.
Soon after, Sal received a letter of condolence and a Mass card from Dan Reagan ‘76. Sal was a member of the Sorin Society, and Dan was its director at the time. Sal was touched by the expression of sympathy and thought he could honor his late wife and help future generations of Notre Dame students by establishing a scholarship fund in her name. He started with money he had received from his late wife’s pension fund.
His reasoning was simple. “I enjoyed Notre Dame but it took a great effort for my family to send me there,” he says. “And Notre Dame has been good to me. A lot of what I’ve done I owe to Notre Dame. I wanted to use some of the money I’ve earned to help others, to help students who are needy like I was. And it brings me great joy to know my wife is looking down from heaven, because I did it in her honor.”
This fall, 60 years after Sal LaPilusa graduated from Notre Dame, Richard Colabraro is attending the University from Bayonne, New Jersey, because of funding from the Lorraine McNally LaPilusa Memorial Scholarship. So is Margaret Laracy from Jersey City. And Patrick O’Keefe from Saint Paul and Ryan Gianelli from Seattle. And Vincente Tennerelli, Nicholas Colagiovanni, Colleen Dougherty, Laura Giannuzzi, Sean O’Neill, Adam Porcelli, Andrew Bozzelli, Allison Holmes, Dominic Biscuso and Howard O’Rourke.
In fact, in the 12 years since the fund was started, almost 150 scholarship awards have been made, to 42 students, totaling $662,000. These scholarships are underwritten by the endowment Sal LaPilusa is building at the University in his wife’s name. That endowment is now valued at about $2.9 million. It’s providing those 14 students about $120,000 this year.
But LaPilusa’s involvement in those students’ lives isn’t merely financial. He corresponds with them, has written letters of recommendation for them; some keep in touch with him long after they have graduated. He comes to campus two or three times a year, for football games and Sorin Society meetings, and each time he takes the students out to dinner. And he’ll get together with Joseph Russo, head of financial aid at Notre Dame, to do some cooking, to share his calamari sauce and pesto.
One other thing: Soon after his wife died the doctor got involved with Orthopedic Overseas, Inc. Since 1991 he has made almost two dozen trips to Third World countries (Indonesia, Bangladesh, Bhutan). He pays his own way and goes twice a year for a month each time — to work in clinics and hospitals, to teach, perform surgeries and treat patients. In January, the 82-year-old doctor, who still sees patients in Bayonne, will make his eighth trip to Vietnam in affiliation with Orthopedic Overseas.
Sal LaPilusa’s story is a good one but it isn’t so extraordinary. In fact, it is what the recently concluded Generations campaign was all about.
This fund-raising effort, the sixth undertaken by the University since 1960, billed itself as “A Campaign for the Notre Dame Student.” It was rooted in a comprehensive self-study report published by the University in May 1993. That report, the “Colloquy for the Year 2000,” outlined an extensive set of needs, priorities, dreams and aspirations, and a $767 million price tag was put on those goals. The fund raising commenced shortly thereafter. When the books were closed on the campaign in December 2000, an unprecedented 74 percent of Notre Dame’s alumni contributed more than $525 million toward the campaign total — a staggering $1.061 billion. Dr. LaPilusa was in good company.
As intended, the chief beneficiaries of the Generations campaign were Notre Dame students. In undergraduate financial aid alone, the University received $166.3 million for endowment and another $48.8 million in expendable scholarship monies. In addition, new law fellowships totaled $12.8 million, MBA fellowships amounted to $12.6 million and Graduate School fellowships received $19.9 million. In other words, while physical facilities and campus expansion may have been the most obvious outcome of the fund raising, more than a fourth of the total has gone directly to the students — to help them afford a Notre Dame education.
Few would argue with the tenet that students are at the heart of any educational enterprise. Ensuring the quality of that student body, regardless of family income and socioeconomic level, is of paramount importance — especially at a place as ambitious as Notre Dame. It is no secret that Notre Dame’s financial aid offerings have been inadequate, particularly when compared with those schools with which Notre Dame competes for students. So the University has lost a good many of the best applicants and enrolled a much less diverse student body than has been sought. Those who did attend, and their families, faced certain financial hardships.
The success of the Generations campaign, however, has resulted in a transforming infusion of funds. Last year the University awarded undergraduates about $31 million in scholarship funding — some $24 million more than in 1991. Now for the first time in Notre Dame’s history, the institution is able to meet the demonstrated financial need of all its undergraduate students. The result is an ever-improving student body, one that is not only academically advanced but also culturally and socially richer.
The achievement is all the more impressive when set in context. Notre Dame became the first Catholic institution to raise a billion dollars, the 12th private university to do so, and the 18th overall. It joins Princeton as the only university without a medical school to reach the $1 billion mark. Notre Dame’s previous fund-raising effort, the Strategic Moment campaign, exceeded its goal (as all have), but topped out at $463 million.
When Notre Dame’s development operation, headed by William Sexton, vice president for university relations, and Dan Reagan, assistant vice president of university relations and executive director of development, embarked upon the $767 million Generations effort, the goal was daunting. It did not help that during inaugural ceremonies the former University president, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, quipped, “You should just go for a billion.”
Reagan will tell you that despite the hard work of a large development staff (with offices in about a half-dozen locations), thorough research, planning and execution as well as a healthy economy during the campaign’s life, fund raising at Notre Dame depends upon developing good personal relationships with people committed to the University, people who share in its mission and care about the place. The 74 percent giving rate among alumni is indicative of their loyalty to the institution; perhaps even more remarkable is that since 1984-85 Notre Dame has ranked first each year among private, doctoral institutions in the amount of money contributed by parents.
The University received 186 gifts in excess of $1 million during the campaign and 514,000 for less than $5,000. More than half the $1 billion raised has gone into endowment, $195 million into the physical plant, with the difference allocated to expendable funding.
But just as Sal LaPilusa’s story is really about people committed to Notre Dame and its students, not just about dollars, the Generations campaign is measured more by its impact on Notre Dame than by a calculator. Here is what that means.
Students are coming to Notre Dame who could not afford to five years ago. Some $125 million has gone toward faculty endowment, establishing 100 new chairs and dramatically improving the caliber of the faculty. A school is only as good as its teachers, researchers and scholars, and the University now has about twice as many endowed chairholders as a decade ago. For the first time in Notre Dame’s fund-raising history the goal for library support was exceeded, with $31.1 million going toward 115 new endowed collections, an endowed directorship, improved technology and major renovations to the 38-year-old Hesburgh Library. As a result, Notre Dame’s libraries, not ranked among the top 100 university libraries in the country 20 years ago, are now in the top 50.
The Generations campaign also did much in multiple ways to enhance Notre Dame’s Catholic character. The Coleman Family Center for Campus Ministry was created and a $2 million endowment for Campus Ministry was established. Other benefactions went to the Alliance for Catholic Education (ACE), which provides new graduates with an opportunity to teach in some of the nation’s poorest parochial schools while earning a master’s degree in education; the Center for Ethics and Culture; the Erasmus Institute, which brings Catholic thought to bear on scholarly and political issues; the Institute for Church Life, which has served and trained Catholic clergy on a national basis for almost three decades; and the Center for Social Concerns, which coordinates student volunteer service and learning opportunities.
A number of institutes and centers either benefited from or were developed as a result of the campaign, such as the Kaneb Center for Teaching and Learning to improve classroom instruction, the Institute for Latino Studies to marshal academic resources on behalf of the nation’s growing Hispanic (and largely Catholic) population, and the Mendelson Center for Sport, Character and Culture. Funding also was directed toward Notre Dame’s prestigious Medieval Institute, helped launch the Shakespeare Initiative, the Nanovic Institute for European Studies and the Keough Institute for Irish Studies. The Dublin Keough Centre in Ireland and the Marian Kennedy Fischer Hall in London were dedicated, and Notre Dame’s reach spread across the globe with the expansion of other study abroad opportunities and international advancement initiatives.
A gift of $35 million, the largest in University history, from Kathy and Thomas Mendoza ‘73 has helped to significantly propel Notre Dame College of Business, under the direction of Dean Carolyn Woo, toward the front rank of America’s business schools. The college, now bearing the Mendoza name, has also benefited from the new Gigot Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Doermer Career Development Center, which provides students with improved resources for career advancement.
Perhaps the most noticeable aspect of the Generations campaign, though, has been the substantial change in the campus landscape. A good portion of this construction has had a direct effect on student life. Four new residence halls were built, enhancing Notre Dame’s residential character. The new Rolfs recreation facility expanded athletic and social opportunities, and the new Coleman-Morse building (on the site of the old bookstore) has provided a new home for Campus Ministry and other student academic services.
The Main Building, the University’s historical and symbolic centerpiece, underwent a dramatic $60 million refurbishing that beautified the structure and greatly reorganized (with the accompanying renovations to Flanner and Grace halls) the institution’s administrative geography.
The woods and fields northeast of campus were converted into the Warren Golf Course, while on the southern edge of campus, transforming the University’s entranceway, the new Eck Center houses a roomier, more elegant Hammes Bookstore, Visitors’ Center and Alumni Association offices. A new building for the departments of philosophy and theology, named after President Edward Malloy, CSC, was recently dedicated at the heart of campus. Bond Hall, the classically designed home of the School of Architecture, underwent a major restoration, and other, smaller projects, such as the Hank Family Center for Environmental Sciences and an addition to Nieuwland Science Hall, have strengthened teaching and research in the sciences.
Although the Generations campaign has concluded, its work is still not done. Ground was broken in mid-September for the new DeBartolo Center for the Performing Arts, and funding is still coming in for a multidisciplinary research facility in engineering and a $70 million science undergraduate laboratory teaching facility. Some campaign goals have gone underfunded, others have been altered by new deans and directors, and there’s always the need for more financial aid. Then, too, there are post-campaign goals and aims and priorities for an institution that never seems to stop and rest.
For now, though, the University is clearly and significantly better because of the resources generated by this enormous fund-raising achievement. Notre Dame has, in fact, made impressive advances not because $1 billion was raised but because of what that funding has enabled the University to do. And the University’s endowment, which ended the 2001 fiscal year valued at approximately $3.2 billion, ensures a foundation in perpetuity, so that, for example, the scholarship fund Sal LaPilusa set up in his wife’s name will be there for generations of other students, as long as Notre Dame exists. He will tell you that this means a lot to him, as do the letters of thanks he receives from students, especially those who say they’d like to do the same someday.
Kerry Temple is editor of this magazine.